Transformers G1: A Tale Anew

Discussion in 'Transformers Fan Fiction' started by Falcadore, Jun 15, 2006.

  1. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    This folks is the reason updates have so slow on Asterisk: Destiny. That and appreciation of new Eskimo Joe albums.

    I haven't been posting it here because of its concept similarity to Peteynorth's Magnum Opus. But since a sudden upsurge in ATA posts has hampered Destiny progress, I felt I should at least give you the opportunity to bucket it at length...

    Early portions of this tale are now going on four years old, but from time to time it sucks me back in, and the current battle sequences as it approaches Chapter 40 have me typing in a Frenzy... pardon the pun...





    THE TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION 1

    A TALE ANEW

    Author's Notes: The following is a re-interpretation of the earliest recorded interactions between the worlds of Earth and Cybertron. It incorporates elements of the animated Generation One and graphic chapbook versions, but retold as the author has thought it might have happened. For the sake of clarity the crossover elements with 'Beast Wars' will be largely ignored as will similar potentially concurrent events portrayed in 'Robots in Disguise' and 'Armada'. Although some elements of 'Robots in Disguise' may appeal; and be incorporated at a later date.

    All characters portrayed that have had multiple incarnations in Transformer lore are portrayed as their Generation One versions, with perhaps a stronger adherence to the original Hasbro/Marvel character definitions than those of the original animated series.

    The Dramatis Personae is mostly 1984 models only with some exceptions, the cast concessions from the original animated series are that Shockwave and Jetfire (Skyfire) are included from the first instance. Jetfire will appear in its Macross/Robotech clone - Grumman F-14A Tomcat form rather than the strange squared off 'flying crate' of the animated series. Jetfire is included earlier as I hate the whole buried in ice thing. It's far too 'Captain America' for my liking. Also he gets to keep his original name. Unlike Bumblebee who looses his for the simple reason that how would anyone on Cybertron know what a Bumblebee is? Fortunately continuity has already provided me with a substitute and it is Goldbug who joins the Ark crew in what becomes the lost patrol, Optimus Prime's ship of fools, lost for the ages.

    Shockwave was included as, well, Megatron just needs the troops, much in the same way as Reflector appeared in early episodes of 'More Than Meets The Eye', plus it gave me a plot option to include the Dinobots. Actually each time I review it I'm adding more '85 models. The Constructicons and Reflector will appear prior to contact with Cybertron being restored but to say more than that would be telling.

    The Ominbots are included as I used to own them as a kid and it gives me three blank sheet Autobots to create personalities for. I'm not saying which of the three I'm basing on how I see myself but the first correct entry will receive a round of applause and the knowledge of knowing how easy it is to spot a developing despot.

    DRAMATIS PERSONAE – SEASON 1

    AUTOBOTS
    Bluestreak (Gunner) Grey Datsun 280ZX
    Brawn (Demolitions) Green/Yellow Land Rover
    Camshaft (Scout) Grey Mazda RX7
    Cliffjumper (Warrior) Red Porsche 924
    Downshift (Security Agent) White Toyota Celica
    Gears (Transport/Reconnaissance) Blue/Red Land Rover
    Goldbug (Espionage) Yellow Volkswagen Beetle (nee Bumblebee)
    Grimlock (Dinobot Commander) Tyrannosaurus Rex
    Hound (Scout) Chrysler Jeep US Army Utility
    Huffer (Construction Engineer) Orange Prime Mover
    Ironhide (Security) Red Toyota Tarago
    Jazz (Special Operations Agent) White Porsche 935 - Martini Racing
    Jetfire (Air Guardian) White Grumman F-14A Tomcat (nee Skyfire)
    Mirage (Spy) Ligier JS25 Cosworth Formula One
    Optimus Prime (Commander) Red/Blue Kenworth Prime Mover
    Overdrive (Strategist) Red Ferrari 512 Boxer
    Prowl (Military Strategist) Datsun 280ZX Police Car
    Ratchet (Medic) Toyota Tarago Ambulance
    Sideswipe (Warrior) Red Lamborghini Countach
    Slag (Flamethrower) Triceratops
    Sludge (Jungle Warrior/Demolitions) Diplodocus
    Snarl (Desert Warrior) Stegosaurus
    Sunstreaker (Warrior) Yellow Lamborghini Countach
    Swoop (Dinobot Bombadier) Pteranadon
    Trailbreaker (Defensive Strategist) Black Toyota Hi-Lux
    Wheeljack (Mechanical Engineer) White Lancia Stratos - Factory Lancia Rally Car
    Windcharger (Warrior) Red Pontiac Firebird

    DECEPTICONS
    Bonecrusher (Demolitions) Green Bulldozer
    Buzzsaw (Spy) Gold Cassette/Condor
    Devastator (Warrior) Constructicon Gestalt
    Frenzy (Warrior) Blue Cassette
    Hook (Surgical Engineer) Green Mobile Crane
    Laserbeak (Interrogation) Red Cassette/Condor
    Long Haul (Transport) Green Dump Truck
    Megatron (Leader) Walther P-38 Automatic Pistol
    Mixmaster (Materials Fabrication) Green Concrete Mixer
    Ravage (Saboteur) Black Cassette/Panther
    Rumble (Demolitions) Black/Red Cassette
    Scavenger (Mining and Salvage) Green Front End Loader
    Scrapper (Demolitions) Green Excavator
    Shockwave (Military Operations Commander) Purple Laser Gun
    Skywarp (Warrior) Black McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
    Soundwave (Communications) Blue Cassette Player
    Spectro (Reconnaissance) Camera
    Spyglass (Reconnaissance) Camera
    Starscream (Air Commander) Grey/Red McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
    Thundercracker (Warrior) Blue McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
    Viewfinder (Reconnaissance) Camera

    Humans - Non-aligned
    Carly Winters - Student
    Brent "Buster" Witwicky - Mechanic
    Spike Witwicky - Apprentice Mechanic
    Spiro "Sparkplug" Witwicky - Proprietor Mechanical Automotive Workshop

    Humans - United States Government
    Michaela de Cesaris - National Security Advisor
    George Fury - Secretary of Defence
    Darrell Hodges - Chief of Staff, Robinson Administration
    Alain Pentti - Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, CIA
    Patrick G. Robinson - President of the United States of America

    Humans - United States Military
    Major Steve Ashby - United States Air Force, Fighter Command
    Colonel Peter Bourne - Deputy Commander, United States Army Special Investigations Unit
    General George Pickett - Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, United States Army
    Lieutenant Colonel Roberts - Air Intelligence, Eighth Air Force, United State Air Force
    Lieutenant Rodgers – US Army Rangers
    Brigadier General Perkele A. Stewart - Officer Commanding, United States Army Special Investigations Unit
    Major General Paul Stokell - Staff officer, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
    Unnamed Government Agent
     
  2. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Prologue --

    On a small planet far from the hubs of the galaxy a civilisation formed. A highly unusual civilisation, initially an exceedingly common carbon-based mammalian biped but over time became increasingly humanoid until they were completely cybernetic. All of the physical disadvantages of flesh had been overcome. It had to be; the sun had died. For whatever the reason, the sun had not gone nova, it had gradually shrunk and turned cold. These Cybertronians, as they later became known, had to evolve to survive. However with the advent of better and better artificial bodies came decreased vulnerability and increased lifespan. These physical attributes would have an effect on the psyche of the population. For some this invincibility gave birth to greater aspirations of power. All it needed was a triggering event, and a charismatic leader or two. As it tends to do, the course of history provided these sparks, and a race once destined to become a major player in intergalactic affairs became embroiled in internecine warfare.

    For hundreds of thousands of years this war raged across Cybertron. Armies rose and fell; territory was won and lost. Until for one side evacuation or submission became the decision. A ship of exploration, a ship of hope, ventured forth to look for options, to search for a future. Another pursued it; an opportunity has arisen because of who was on board. One great leader left Cybertron, pursued by the other. Their absence would last millions of years and the war would run its course without them. There would be a victor and a loser, but for these two, the result would never be known. Eventually the two histories would re-unite, but eventually would take a very long time.

    This is their story.
     
  3. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- SEASON ONE –

    -- Chapter One - Fall From Grace --

    One slip, and down the hole we fall,
    It seems to take, no time at all;
    A momentary lapse of reason,
    defines a life for life;
    A small regret, you will never forget,
    there'll be no sleep in here tonight

    Pink Floyd "One Slip", from original album "A Momentary Lapse of Reason"

    In the greater context of the universe, it was an insignificant event. Two vessels fighting didn't even make up a significant event in most conflicts. Wars have been fought since time immemorial. Civil wars, international wars, interplanetary wars, wars of conquest, wars of genocide, wars of retribution, wars of religion, Sontarens against Rutans, Klingons against Romulans, Centaurii against Narn, the Daleks against most everyone else at some point, Terrans against... well you get the point. These two vessels seemed hardly likely to make that much of an impact on any history of the universe. But this skirmish would butterfly its way down the timelines, and its true effect wouldn't be felt for millions of years...

    The two great vessels tumbled and twisted through each other in hyperspace. There seemed to be no pattern, no meaning to the exchange, until you looked closer. The two vessels were by no means similar. One was smaller, faster, sleeker, more agile, blatantly a vessel of war. The other was larger and lumbering, less able to fend off its foe. Whatever its purpose, a warship it was not. That is not to say it was unarmed. The two ships traded hammer blows. Energy beams flashed between the two. It was impossible to tell at any given moment who was firing at who. Whatever the nature of the battle, the big ship appeared to be losing. The hull was damaged, with compartments open to space, with flares of light coming from within.

    A flash of light and something critical on the larger ship gave. An explosion flared briefly in the available atmosphere before chilling in the cold of vacuum. For suddenly it was vacuum as the larger ship lost main engine power and jerked abruptly into real space. The two vessels were separated as the smaller vessel continued on for several light seconds before dropping into realspace to re-orient and return to battle...



    "Main engines are offline. If we don't find shelter soon we may have to deal with a containment breach in the reactor vessel. I need to take the reactor offline to effect repairs," cried an amplified voice through the noise of vessel. At least it would have been a cry if an organic race had produced it. But it was not organic. There was no inflection brought about by yelling that that an organic vocal chord has to, to achieve amplification. This voice was digital in origin. All it need was an alteration in resistance and the voice was louder. The digital voice belonged to a digital personality, the mechanical personality to a mechanical being. Unusually for a mechanical species, it stood on two legs, had two arms and a head. It was unusual for a mechanical race to evolve a humanoid form, but humanoid or even android was perhaps being over generous. Sharp angles stuck out everywhere as if it looked like the parts of a great metal, ceramic and fibre jigsaw put together badly. It was a slightly discordant effect and made the being look like it was trying to be something it wasn't. And that wasn't too far from the truth.

    His name was Wheeljack. He was the engineer for this exploration voyage. And he was far from happy with the situation he was being expected to deal with. The vessel, called The Ark, was in pain. The damage to the drive section of the ship had meant that propulsion through hyperspace was no longer possible and an emergency hyperspace egress had been hurriedly carved in the fabric of reality to allow the Ark to jump to 'realspace'. It was a process that was more than merely a strain on components. A voice came back to Wheeljack. It didn't belong to any of the other beings in the room, for the voice was transmitted not just through the aural range, but also on higher frequencies that could pass through solid objects, like the decks and walls of the vessel.

    "What can you give us?" It was a gentler voice, familiar with the speaker and with the situation, practiced at extracting the gist of a report without the colour. Wheeljack knew the speaker almost as well as he knew himself.

    "A short burst and that may rupture the vessel, closest system only. We are close to a system right?" The question sounded hopeful. From hope springs many things, among them re-assurance, and Wheeljack wanted that reassurance.

    "Standby, I will get back to you." Reassuring, the reply was not.



    On the bridge of the Ark things looked less frantic. Everyone was seated and working over its allotted displays.

    "Prime, we have to find landfall, immediately." The speaker, the one who had spoken to Wheeljack, looked like a sleeker version of Wheeljack. Five metres standing, which he wasn't, in white and black compared to Wheeljacks white, green and red, Prowl was an altogether more aesthetic proposition. Prowl was shuffling through navigational charts searching for where they had emerged. Even with the assistance of Teletran One, the Ark's onboard mainframe, it was a tough assignment. There are far too many stars to make finding your location after an emergency hyperspace egress easy. Teletran found a match and shunted the display to Prowl who forwarded it to the larger figure seated in the command chair in the middle of the bridge. Optimus Prime stood over seven meters tall, a mountain of red and blue metal.

    "Here Prime. It is the only option." Prowl did not sound resigned or hopeful, merely informative.

    "No local population. It is not a named world, a feral world." Optimus Prime considered.

    "Wheeljack, can you repair the Ark without the assistance of a dry dock?" said with a deeper voice filled with the authority years of command experience can give.

    "Yes," called the disembodied reply from the absent Wheeljack. He had a question of his own, "We heading somewhere wild?"

    "Confirmed, we are orienting for jump now. Jetfire there is our course."

    "Aye Prime, coming about and laid in," said the white figure at the helm. "Wheeljack, I need power for 600 light seconds travel then manoeuvring once we're in system."

    "We can handle that. We have power when you want it."

    "Leap." said Optimus. As Jetfire fired the main engines another voice appeared.

    "Decepticons," Jazz was at the sensor station. A burst of energy had been picked up before the sensors were taken offline for the jump. A lot of the more sensitive sensors could easily be burned out by the mass of energy waves from a hyperspace entry. Those at weapons consoles started, but relaxed again as the distinctive but indescribable effect of hyperspace came from the viewscreen. Jazz replayed the last moments of data and evaluated.

    "Did they get a read on our jump?" asked Prowl, mentally pouring over options.

    "Almost certainly."

    "We will be vulnerable once we arrive in system. Prowl, Bluestreak we need an ambush." said Prime.

    "Bluestreak, how are the particle beam weapons?"

    "Reasonably wrecked. We have lost 80% from the starboard side, so that is a real mess, couldn't hit Omega Supreme at point blank with them, and the chances of the 'cons arriving on the port side is only fifty-fifty. Shall I toss a door magnet and rip open half the decks to save time?"

    "Missiles?" asked Prowl, ignoring the flippancy.

    "Got them all. Have not had a chance, or the need to fire one."

    "Prime we need to stop and make a microjump. The Decepticons will follow our track, so if we microjump we won't be where they expect us to be. We will salvo a broad spread, bring down their shields with the missiles fired closest abeam and damage them as those fired from further missile ports catch up." Prowl was still evolving the plan as he spoke. Optimus Prime stood back and let his strategist plan it out. Bluestreak and the other warriors were ready just as the unintelligible something of hyperspace snapped to the black to normal space. Only instead of a smooth transition, it juddered, as if reality didn't want to appear, as Jetfire performed the microjump. It left a mass of energy residue in space and put them several kilometres from the position their jump would have suggested. As Jetfire reoriented the Ark at Prowls direction it became obvious they were more than merely in system. A blue and white world wheeled about through the viewports. Against the backstop of the planets gravity well, adding a wall to the trap. If the Decepticons had miscalculated their guess at the jump their safety systems would snap them unexpectedly back into reality. It was a good plan, a hopeful plan.

    Tension built as the minutes passed. The Decepticons were overdue. Why? The immaculate yellow figure of Sunstreaker impatiently tapped a finger against a console. The red figure of his brother Sideswipe glared at Sunstreaker momentarily and the tapping stopped.

    "Energy spike." called Jazz. The direction was fed instantly into the missile seekers. Bluestreak didn't hesitate.

    "Salvo one!" and the Ark shuddered with multiple launches.



    In so far as any ruthless warrior could be happy with its crew, Megatron was happy with its crew. It was a scratch crew. Megatron had heard favourable words about Starscream and his command of an aerial unit and assigned his Seekers to the Nemesis crew. However recent operations had thinned Starscream's Seekers operational strength and another unit had been nominated in their place. Starscream had fought to be reinstated, fought hard and the Seekers had been re-instated but only three of them would make the flight with Starscream promising more would show up until mere seconds before departure. Skywarp and Thundercracker stood at gunnery stations, sole representatives of Starscream's squadron. Anticipating a shortfall of warriors Megatron had brought his force multiplier of choice, Soundwave. The communicator and his cadre of Cassetticons would be useful. He still needed an experienced second in command that he trusted and neither Starscream nor Soundwave filled that role. For an experienced second, Megatron had chosen Shockwave. A small crew, but an effective one, doubts about Starscream aside.

    The damaged Autobot vessel had fled into Hyperspace the moment they appeared, but they departed down a path towards the only hospitable system within light minutes although records on the Decepticon gunship were sketchier than what the Ark would no doubt have on call. The gunship leapt after the Autobots. The task awaited completion. Megatron's circuits burned with the desire of vengeance. Revenge for every defeat this Autobot crew had visited upon him.

    "Ready Decepticons. Today we finally rid the fleet of the scourge of Optimus Prime and his pitiful band." Megatron did not even bother was disguising his desire with the discipline of command. He wanted this ship and its crew decommissioned. As did every other warrior Megatron had assembled on the Gunship. It was a small crew, compared to the Autobots, but they were all warriors. The Autobot crew would be padded out with all manner of specialists. They would be able to hold guns, but shoot them? Megatron doubted their effectiveness.

    Soundwave had a countdown feed into everyone's displays. To Megatron's right, Starscream was almost twitching in anticipation. He had cried with delight during the battle. Megatron's thought processes only briefly skirted a post-operation review. Starscream was starting to prove a disappointing choice as operations commander. They were coming up on...

    "Mis-leap." called Soundwave. Reality screamed into the viewports before it was supposed to. "Gravity well proximity warning." continued Soundwave. Megatron very briefly speculated and saw they had jumped to close to the world the Autobots had leapt towards. What if...

    "Sensors" called Megatron. The long to mid range sensors had come up already and were feeding the data on the world below them, the short-range sensors were brought on selectively as it was determined what could be safely brought online. What they reported, they reported too late.

    "Missiles." called Soundwave. "Starboard rear quarter." Megatron's display came alive with a tactical feed; already missiles were impacting against the gunship energy shields. The ship shook with repeated impacts for just under a minute.

    "Hypervelocity engines damaged. Recommend; withdraw from battle."

    "No." cried Megatron and Starscream together. Megatron examined the tactical display and didn't like what he saw at all. Gunship Nemesis had its back to the gravity well of the now far from distant planet. The Autobot vessel had positioned itself that the Decepticons would have to fight their way past them. The Ark was lightly armed, but significantly larger than the Nemesis and had rotated to bring 80% of its guns to bear.

    "Close on them Shockwave. Starscream get out there and distract their gunners."

    "With pleasure Megatron." screeched one voice while another held just a bleak functional acknowledgment. As a tall purple grey figure characterised by a single glowing eye in its face altered the gunboats vector, three figures disengaged from gunnery stations and headed for the bridge deck airlock. Megatron turned back to the figure in blue at the communication and sensor station.

    "Soundwave, prepare for direct assault."



    Grey with red highlights, Starscream made a crunching noise as he floated out of the airlock, the basically humanoid figure folding and tucking in on itself, shrinking but becoming more bulky and yet streamlined. Where once a humanoid figure floated now drifted a free-space attack fighter. Behind Starscream moving into a vaguely triangular formation two identical shapes in blue and black duplicated the move. Thundercracker and Skywarp stood ready to assist their raid commander.

    "Triangle formation for initial pass using missiles, then break and strafe at targets of opportunity." cried Starscream, eyes alight and encouraged with the noise of battle in his receptors. A coward by inclination, Starscream was nonetheless a warrior born of generations of fighting Decepticons. He knew small unit aerial tactics. Skywarp floated up on Starscream's left, a triangle of black metal, almost indistinguishable against the vista of space. Thundercracker, in a looser position moved up on the right. The trio accelerated, setting off main engines and flew from behind Nemesis and circled to streak in at the nose of the Autobot vessel. From this angle Starscream could force the forward Autobot guns to train away from the gunboat to meet the secondary threat while still minimising the number of guns available to fire at them. At one kilometre the three loosed missiles towards the Ark, giving the gunners plenty of opportunity to focus too much of their available attention on the missiles. With lasers cannons twinkling, the three fighters strafed the length of the Ark. A discharge of energy somewhere behind Starscream indicated at least one of the missiles got through the defensive screen and struck the hull. Once past the aft of the Ark and away from the Ark's engines Starscream broke away from the battle.

    "Skywarp, Thundercracker, break and ATTACK!!"



    The Ark was visibly closer through the viewport of the gunboats wide assault airlock. Megatron turned away from trajectories and drift calculations to inspect the assault group. By his side was the tall solidly blue figure of Soundwave, gathered around him his progeny, the humanoid figures in black and blue of Rumble and Frenzy, the two avians in red and gold of Laserbeak and Buzzsaw and the feline figure of Ravage. Once a successful boarding had been forged Starscream and his companions could join them with Shockwave staying with the Gunboat. A small but tight group, more than enough to cope with the dilettante pretend soldiers aboard the Ark.

    "Megatron, I have located the Ark's main egress point. Manoeuvres to the gunboat are complete; you may launch your attack at your convenience." Megatron did not wait and the airlock door rumbled open as soon as Megatron grasped the import of Shockwave's message. The force shield over the lock would protect the warriors from accidental bombardment but once the field was broached there would be long seconds of exposure to space before arriving at the Autobot hatch. At that moment a blur of grey flashed across the shrinking gap between the two vessels. Starscream left a bomblet to drift by momentum into the centre of the Ark's lock. Megatron was briefly annoyed. It was a high-risk tactic, the bomblet could wreck the lock to make impassable as opposed to blowing it open, but the bomblet was low powered and satisfying blew a hole open in the lock. Not big enough for Megatron or Soundwave to pass through, but Soundwaves team were not so bulky. Buzzsaw and Laserbeak leapt for the gap with Ravage, Rumble and Frenzy following. Laserbeak hung back and the golden figure of Buzzsaw was the first to enter the Ark.



    Prowl didn't like their chances. When the gunboat drew alongside, being boarded was always the plan. The Ark though was too big and too undermanned to make defending against boarders a realistic option. Prowl had set up a few barricades at the entry ports, but if the Decepticons decided to burn their way through the hull they would have to scramble. The Decepticons though, had taken the easy option. As the lock door blew inwards Prowl put the other fortified positions on standby to retreat to his position if the Decepticons focused on only one entry. It was a risky judgment. Judging by the one brief camera footage of the strike team not all of the Decepticon strike team was committed to the entry. For the moment the fighters continued to strafe the Ark, and someone was still manning the gunboats main guns. One final check of his team, Overdrive and Cliffjumper both clutched the guns with fierce determination. Windcharger had a kind of world-weary look about him, like he really shouldn't be there at all. Sunstreaker fidgeted, trying to find the best position to crouch that would minimise the possibility of a laser graze ruining his paintwork. Mirage just looked plain bored. What did it take to get Mirage interested in anything?

    At that moment twinkles of hot light burst in the hole. With covering fire from outside, a very small Decepticon drifted in the hole. It didn't have a proper transformer shape. Prowl the tactician immediately recognised the aerial gun platform of either Buzzsaw or Laserbeak, probably Buzzsaw. This was both good and bad. Good because the real threat was not yet ready and this would give Prowl additional time to reinforce this barricade as he called on Jazz and Wheeljacks teams to abandon their barricades and proceed to Prowls. But it was bad as it indicated Soundwave was here, along with his army of miniature Decepticons. Soundwave was a force multiplier; he could give a raiding party far more power than another single Decepticon could. The last observation was confirmed as Buzzsaw's covering fire emerged into the large docking bay as Laserbeak. Ravage followed through but did not contribute to the battle. The feline figure immediately slunk away towards the back of the bay, looking for a way to get under Prowl's guard. Prowl directed his team to try and pin down the two avian Decepticons while he personally awaited developments. They weren't long in coming as the small hole shook to a set of mighty hammer blows. The blows quickly repeated, and continued. That meant Rumble was working on the remains of the hatch. Prowl directed Sunstreaker, Windcharger and Cliffjumper to continue harrying the aviatrixes, and Overdrive to keep tabs on Ravage while he and Mirage set up sniping angles on the door.

    Mirage squinted down the sights of his rifle beside Prowl behind the makeshift barricades that had been hurriedly welded to the deck. Prowl glanced at Mirage briefly before sighting his own rifle towards the hole. There was a cry and somebody bumped Prowl. He thought it was Overdrive when Prowl caught a glimpse of red through the hole out into space.

    "Firing." said Mirage a moment after sending an armour-piercing dart out into space....



    Rumble's pounding of the door remnants changed with a small explosive charge. The small Decepticon clutched a jagged shoulder joint and was pushed away from smashing aside the doors, a job which thanks to Rumbles effort could now be fixed with a shove. Soundwave reached out and snagged the wounded Decepticon before he tumbled away into space. Telemetry from Laserbeak and Buzzsaw demonstrated the folly of shouldering slowly past broken metal into the bay. The Autobots had fortified too well. Megatron needed another option.

    "Skywarp! I need you to shut down an Autobot barricade." A large triangle of black metal flew up beside Soundwave and unfolded into a darkened look alike of Starscream. "Can you do it?" Skywarp was studying a telemetry feed from Ravage.

    "Yes Megatron." Skywarp turned away from Megatron, raised his arms into a firing position, readied his arm-mounted cannons and stood very still, and with a surge of energy from his leg mounted engines and his shoulder projections Skywarp faded from sight. Megatron shouldered his way to the hatch and thrust his huge Fusion Cannon inside the hole.

    "Covering fire, now!"



    Skywarp's vision clouded and faded to black, then exploded into madness. It was a madness that could be endured or ignored. Skywarp had found that shutting his eyes down did not always guarantee that they would come back on again once the 'jump' was completed. Teleportation jumping causes massive disruptions, against which Skywarp's essential systems had been hardened. So Skywarp took the risk to his sanity and lived through the brief moments of visual madness.

    Skywarp found the space he wanted to be and tore open a rent in reality and slipped back into an alcove in a darkly lit corridor. Several figures clanked slowly past him, moving toward the barricade. Time dilation always affected Skywarp while teleporting. Slowly orienting he found himself in shadowed recessed hatchway behind the Autobot barricade. Reality snapped back into normal speed. The whole process had taken less than a second. He recognised Prowl and Mirage immediately at the front of the barricade, and Jazz and Bluestreak amongst two of the new comers. Overdrive lay on the floor behind the barricade clutching his shoulder. There was danger that Overdrive might see him. The barricade was now fully manned and Prowl was re-deploying some of the new arrivals to other vantage points around the end of the cargo bay. This was a vital choke point. Once the Decepticons could break out of the airlock and antechamber they could break out into the ship at random. There were now seven Autobots in front of him. Skywarp prioritised his targets and shifted his extended arms towards Prowl and Bluestreak and sighted a cannon along each arm.



    Prowl moved to give Mirage a better firing angle when Mirage cried out and collapsed across the barricade, his back smoking. Someone fell against his back and there was a thump from the right suggesting another Autobot had done the same thing. Prowl started to turn, belatedly noticing the chatter of heavy calibre projectile weapons, trying to shove the deadweight of what turned out to be Jazz, off himself, and taking in the collapsed Bluestreak as Sunstreaker was firing back behind him when fire exploded across the yellow warriors form. Jazz was trying vainly to raise his wounded gun arm from where Prowl had shoved him. Prowl recognised Skywarp immediately but the Decepticon was bringing a cannon back to centre on Prowl.
    "Prime, we need.." orange glint and blackness.



    "Prowl? PROWL?" When Optimus Prime got no answer the likely options appeared ugly. The most likely was that the Decepticons had broken out of the antechamber. If they could break out of the hold, then the battle was likely lost.

    "All Autobots concentrate forces on the hold, the Decepticons must be contained and repelled." Optimus Prime abandoned his bridge post and headed for the passageway, Jetfire at his heels, transforming into vehicular modes as they went and leaving control of the Ark to Teletran One.



    With Frenzy, the wounded Rumble and the two avians laying ranging fire at Autobot strongpoints across and around the various obstacles in the hold Soundwave strode confidently forward down the centre passageway, his own concussion blaster firing in one hand while in the other he held the massive particle beam cannon of Megatron in his transformed mode. Megatron was independently traversing and firing, using Soundwave's arm as a steadying platform while Soundwave focused on his own weapon. This was the sight presented to Optimus Prime and Jetfire upon reaching the hold at Ironhide's upper level gallery. Prime took in the initial barricade, now overrun, with collapsed figures strewn around it including the dark figure of Skywarp. Most of the fire from below was headed towards Ironhide's position. Some Autobots were down in the hold proper; Prime thought he could detect Hound using his hologram to spoof the Decepticon gunners. There was a loud explosion from across the hold as another gallery shattered from a missile fired at point blank range.

    "That was Sidewipe's position, Prime," said Ironhide grimly. "That was probably that animal scragger of Soundwaves." If it had been Ravages handiwork, they'd never know. Spotting that Decepticon before it stuck a weapon where you didn't want was no small feat. As Ironhide stepped back from his station at the ledge Prime struck his cannon down a vantage point and hit Soundwave in the torso with his first shot, smashing the large blue 'Con backwards to the floor. Megatron immediately transformed and found cover. Prime laid down a volley of shots, supported by Jetfire and Camshaft.



    With the two vessels locked together the Gunship Nemesis' automated piloting assistance systems were fighting with the Ark's own systems. The two vessels were now in a barely controlled descent. Soon all aboard both vessels would recognise the imminent danger, but already it was too late to avoid. Shockwave was torn by indecision. He had to inform Megatron to evacuate the ship. But evacuate to where? Megatron wasn't answering his messages. He sent the information as a data link and left the bridge for the airlock.



    "I can't get to anyone by Prowl's position; I have no idea of the condition of any of them. Sideswipe will need a new arm for that little act of stupidity, and Huffer has serious internal wounds. I've done all I can for him but I need this battle to end." Ratchet sat straddled over Camshaft, welding on a field dressing as he reported to Optimus. Ironhide sat groggily next to Camshaft. The veteran Autobot had been dazed after taking a hit from a missile intended for Optimus. Jetfire was gone, moved to another position near the roof of the bay. He had to move after Thundercracker and Starscream had entered the hold in a barrage of fire, which had put Hound down before Optimus optics and Gears wasn't reporting in either. Sideswipe had emerged from his shattered balcony with his jetpack thrusting, crash tackling Thundercracker out of the air. The manoeuvre had cost Sideswipe dear, as Ratchet had suggested but it had taken another invader down. Goldbug had reported retreating from Sideswipes former balcony dragging a wounded Downshift with him. A small dark figure with red highlights appeared around the corner of a silo and Prime blasted him down before really checking the figures identity and hoped it wasn't Gears. It was Rumble though who cried and went down. The whole vessel started shaking.

    "Was that Rumble?" asked Ratchet, now helping Camshaft to his feet.

    "Yes," said Optimus, but he wasn't so sure. The shaking continued well after the vibrational Decepticon went down and stayed down. A thought rammed home with the surging chill of impending doom.

    "Jetfire, Wheeljack, can either of you access Teletran? Are we de-orbiting?" Ratchet and Camshaft looked around sharply at Optimus' question and even the groggy Ironhide seemed to pay more attention.

    "Sorry Optimus," was Jetfire's clear concise tones. "Busy." Optimus glanced to the left where he thought Jetfire was and saw Buzzsaw and Starscream had pinned down the aerial Autobot.

    "Teletran is vague on the point, but I believe that to be the case. It looks like the Decepticon gunship is dragging us out of orbit," said a worried sounding Wheeljack. "I am heading for the bridge." Optimus hesitated only a moment. Help was needed. The situation was suddenly beyond petty squabbles. Stepping from cover Optimus stood in full view from the observation gallery.

    "MEGATRON!"



    Megatron paused. He had seen a flash of red and had been bringing his cannon around. There was something in the tone of voice though, something that required a reply, if only some playful repartee.

    "Surrendering Prime?"

    "We need your help." Megatron openly laughed.

    "I think not Prime. We will soon have you and your ship, then we will be able to help ourselves."

    "We are de-orbiting." Only now did Megatron finally wonder if the vibrations, steadily growing, were something other than Rumble. Megatron saw the black and red figure of Rumble lying prone behind him. Megatron then belatedly noticed a data message from Shockwave. He remembered ignoring several messages from Shockwave, but now opened the data mail message from Shockwave. The contents were alarming.

    "Shockwave! Where are you?"

    "Several kilometres above Nemesis, Megatron. I will lose contact with you shortly as both vessels are now entering the planets atmosphere." From Shockwaves position he could see the gunship taking the brunt of the entry and was already glowing with friction. Probability stated the two vessels would tumble and break-up. Survival chances for any Cybertronians on board were a grim, but wide variable. "I will attempt to regain contact as and when I can." To Megatron it sounded almost like a farewell, but alone and shipless would not see Shockwave well. He would be as dependent on their survival as everyone on board.


    While Megatron deliberated it was already too late. The forward sections of Gunship Nemesis were already glowing fiercely from heat friction. The buffeting increased beyond the capacity of any of the Cybertronians to successfully maintain balance. Speed had picked up and gee forces added to the difficulties. Aboard the Ark, Teletran One fought to keep the vessels from tumbling. One by one it could sense the consciousness of the Cybertronians aboard failing. Teletran noticed this in the periphery, what runtime the descent commanded, Teletran gave it. The Decepticon gunship already appeared damaged beyond the ability to fly again, but was still stubbornly attached.

    As suddenly as it had started the violence was gone. The atmosphere had been penetrated successfully but any of the Ark's atmospheric capabilities were thoroughly compromised by Gunship Nemesis. The Gunship had to go for anyone to survive the catastrophic descent towards the surface. But no one aboard the Ark was capable of assisting Teletran.

    Following as best as he was able, Shockwave chased hard down into the planets atmosphere. He took the atmospheric entry considerably slower than the ships, but had started earlier, anticipating the wild descent. Shockwave was still far behind the two vessels but was catching now. Shockwave could tell someone was trying, and failing to control the descent. It took several more minutes, but Shockwave arrived at the same decision as Teletran One. Closing until within accurate firing range, Shockwave folded in upon himself, transforming into a large cannon. Shockwave spent several long minutes watching the two vessels, trying to anticipate which way the vessels rocked, then fired.



    Teletran registered the thick purple beam coming in. It was in no position to mount a defence and could do nought but analyse where it would hit. The beam struck in the middle of the etheric gantry-way that stubbornly connected the two vessels, penetrating and ripping what the forces of the descent had not. The damage was not complete, but the still constant buffeting completed it, and Gunship Nemesis tore away from the Ark. Teletran was finally able to control the descent. Arresting it would be impossible. There was too much damage to the gravitational floaters. At range Teletran detected a Cybertronian pursuing the tumbling Gunship Nemesis. There might be time to save both vessels. Teletran now focused on the inevitable landing attempt, or rather, how to control the crash. The Ark's large wing area helped to steady the great ship, but it was still going to be rough. The Ark was headed towards the smaller of the two main continental landmasses, on what was plainly a very wet world. There was some plain flat country before a mountain range that seemed be the spot the Ark had chosen to crash into. Teletran took the auto-repair systems off line and placed them in reset for the eventual crash with some additional programming parameters to prioritise on the survivors. The ground rushed up to meet them as Teletran fought vainly to steer the Ark away from a Mountain, then gave up to get the craft as level as possible for impact. An emergency defence mechanism was activated, as per Ironhide's orders for the defence of any Autobots from the Decepticons, but whether the sleepers could operate after the impact was open to question.

    Teletran's last acts were to secure the fuel systems against impact, disconnecting them, start the fire retardant systems before the crash and activate the sleepers and set the scanners to provide them with localised templates.

    The Ark had been designed with the possibility of entering an atmosphere, thus was considerably sturdier than a space-faring vessel needed to be. This construction saved the lives of those on board. The vessel plastered in still carrying a lot of speed, digging a deep furrow in the ground. The nose stayed up so the craft did not flip over. The ships defensive armour plating was destroyed but it saved the ship allowing it to come to rest against the base of a mountain more or less intact. The fire retardant continued to spray until there was none left. After a good long pause some of the auto repair robots came to life and began to buzz around the survivors, assessing those in greatest need. The robots concentrated on those whose spark was in jeopardy, and that took up all of the robots available. With Teletran down, there was no guidance for the small robots, nor any attempt to collate the data or to discriminate between friend and foe...
     
  4. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Two - Pre-History --

    The air was chill and thin. A faint film of condensation covered some surfaces. Wind whistled about the room, coming in through a huge rent in one wall. Outside, it was pitch black, with just a vague hint of movement. A couple of clouds were starting the get vague highlights of colour as the local star started to cross the horizon somewhere out of view. Lights flickered and danced across the consoles revealing and displaying all kinds of information; minutiae about craft and environment, air speed, atmospheric conditions, metallurgical data. But for the single yellow unblinking eye in an impassive face, nothing impressed. It was the metallurgical data the tall mauve-grey Cyclops was after.

    Shockwave stood at the controls of Gunship Nemesis, or rather what used to be Gunship Nemesis, as another grid square was completed. Shockwave had now been searching for 36 local days, flying Nemesis high enough to conserve fuel in such a thick atmosphere, but low enough for the more delicate sensors to do their work. Shockwave had started searching the eastern coast on the continental landmass the Ark crashed on and gradually moved west. It had been 102 local days since the initial battle. Shockwave was now only spending an hour each day conscious as he tried to conserve energon in this wild pre-industrialised place. It had taken 64 days to repair Gunship Nemesis sufficiently to make it airworthy again and another two to travel across a great plain of water from the largest to the second largest continental land mass. Airworthy was a generous description. Space worthy could never happen without the services of a vacuum-dock, something plainly not in evidence on this world. The once graceful lines of the ship were shattered.

    In the moments after losing contact with the Ark, Shockwave had caught Gunship Nemesis in time and fought his way through a fresh hole, no doubt his own work from his rash technique of separating the two craft, straight onto the bridge. There were enough active systems remaining to bring Nemesis under control, barely 1000 metres from impact. Which was just as well, as Nemesis would not have been able to survive a crash. Shockwave made a barely controlled landing on the coast of the largest continental land mass. Nemesis was no longer space worthy that much had been obvious. That characteristic had not changed but over a period of weeks, but Shockwave had made the vessel airworthy.

    In the initial week since landfall, Shockwave had speculated endlessly about the fate of those aboard the Ark. There had not been a single probe in all that time, or since. There was no beacon. There had been no transmissions. This world was electronically dead and Shockwave held it in contempt. Of most concern though was there had been no telemetry from any Spark that had been aboard the Ark. No sign of Starscream or his seekers screaming across the skies. No transmissions from Soundwave. Nor were there any sign of Jetfire or Sideswipe, the two flight capable Autobots thought to be on board the Ark. There was absolutely no indication that anything else was alive on this planet, apart from the indigenous life forms, which were extremely primitive.

    The search began anew in another grid square. Gunship Nemesis wasn't equipped for a metallurgical survey, or for search and rescue. Basic sensors should theoretically be able to pinpoint a large amount of processed metal though. Gunship Nemesis was now approaching a Mountain range, which had some fresh volcanic activity. The quantities of molten rock would make a mess of sensor readings. Sure enough, large chunks of metal started appearing, but it was a very high density. Could it be? Shockwave reset the sensors to search out for the sparks of Megatron and the others, only to find the signal jammed. Under the circumstances, that was good enough.



    Against a background of a hash of static and increasingly failing sensors something was detected flying at altitude with far too much precision for the local reptilian life. Weeks before, local templates had been grafted to the sleepers but they had not been awakened. Activating the five sleepers would require resources that had earlier been prioritised towards tending the casualties. With the casualties stabilised and a threat now current, the command was given and the sleepers slowly began to awaken. With the process almost finished it failed, suddenly and completely. The sleepers would now have to awaken themselves, and the possibility of side effects was high. But the Ark knew no more, having used everything it had awakening the sleepers for defence it was now spent. Temperatures dropped rapidly and the interior became not unlike a tomb. In an upper level, things were stirring....



    A kilometre from the metallic anomaly, Shockwave parked Gunship Nemesis and continued in slowly and carefully on foot. If the Ark could detect him, it had undoubtedly seen Nemesis. Shockwave advanced carefully, observing the ground for any prepared traps.



    Awareness. Darkness. Containment. Something solid in front. Push. PUSH. SMASH! BASH! PUSH! Open. Who am I? Push away door. Who am I? Gr. Grrrr. Grimlock! I am GRIMLOCK! Where am I? Is this Ark? Why no light? Where friends?

    "Ssss." Voice not work. "Slrrgg. Slag. Is Slag there?"

    "Am I Slag?"

    "I am Snarl."

    "I am Grimlock."

    "Swoop thinks Swoop is Swoop and not Slag."

    "I am not Grimlock or Snarl or Swoop. I am Slag."

    "No I am Slag. You are Swoop."

    "No he is Swoop."

    "Yes Swoop is Swoop."

    "He who is not Slag is Sludge."

    "Or you Slag or am I Slag?"

    "We all here. We go see Optimus. Ask why awake in place with no light." Grimlock's patience was being tested by this discussion.

    "Which way go?"

    "Not this way. This wall does not smash like first wall."

    "Fetch weapons and follow Grimlock."

    "That is Slag's gun."

    "Yes I am Slag."

    "You not Sludge?"



    Shockwave could see very little of the Ark. A landslide had covered most of its form. Two sublight thrust vents were exposed. Some jutting wreckage had formed a tunnel beside the hull. The rock material looked stable on first glance. A hatchway was partially exposed, one sufficiently large that Shockwave could enter comfortably. The arched tunnel would also be a perfect ambush spot.

    Shockwave's sensors probed the gap, found nothing; then Shockwave raised his right arm, the arm with the cannon built into it replacing the more common hand. At its mildest setting Shockwave fired, the sound of the broad-spectrum bolt echoing around the confined space. Shockwave reached the access hatch and studied the mechanism. Clearly there was no power. A pair of small leads emerged from Shockwave's gun arm and snaked towards a socket beside the hatchway. The smallest amount of power necessary pulsed along one lead and the hatch retracted. The door stayed open as Shockwave moved through the first door, and then repeated the process on the other side of the airlock. There was no light beyond the door. Shockwave shifted around the light wave frequencies, trying to find the best method of sight before moving forward again, studying the last telemetry feed received from his fellows during the attack to get a layout of the Ark.



    "Why you not speak to us Optimus?" Grimlock had found the shattered hold area of the Ark. Bodies had been strewn everywhere, almost all of them unfamiliar to Grimlock. More of them should have been familiar but for some reason Grimlock couldn't tell why. Perhaps that was something wrong in itself, but Grimlock struggled to care. He was standing over the prone form of Optimus Prime who lay below what used to be one of the holds inspection galleries.

    "Where are we Optimus?" Optimus didn't reply. Grimlock's fellows were moving around the hold looking for anyone familiar. Swoop moved in beside Grimlock and pointed towards a figure sticking out of the remains of the inspection gallery.

    "Swoop thinks Swoop see Ratchet."

    "Good. Ratchet make us better. Go bring Ratchet here." To the familiar crunching sound Swoop folded into his alternative shape. It was different from what it was supposed to be.

    "Can Swoop still fly in strange shape?" Swoop flapped his wings experimentally and paused then fired off his thrusters and pushed on the air, flying up to the remains of the balcony. After a couple of minutes Swoop looked over the edge down at Grimlock.

    "Ratchet not talk to Swoop. Swoop think Ratchet not well."

    "Is anybody here talking?"

    "Slag can talk."

    "Yes I can talk."

    "You are Sludge."

    "No I am Slag."

    "Even Megatron not talking." Grimlock started at Snarl's voice, which carried over the continuing identity crisis of Slag and Sludge. If there was one name that stuck in Grimlock's head more than Optimus Prime's it was Megatron. Finding Megatron here on a dead Autobot ship was a shock, even to Grimlock's dulled mind. Grimlock thumped his way over to where Snarl was, followed by Swoop, gliding over from his elevated position.



    Shockwave moved very slowly now. He could hear voices deep within the Ark. They were strange voices. The inflections were almost familiar but there was something wrong with the voices. His battle files would not provide identification. Shockwave started shunting power to his laser gun arm, and the focus began to glow with a vaguely purple light. He arrived at the door to the hold where he knew the battle had taken place.

    The first body he came across was Skywarp's. He lay prone having fallen forward from an alcove. Before him lay an impressive collection of Autobots at a barricade. Skywarp had done outstandingly well; Prowl and Jazz were here, two of Optimus Primes most senior Lieutenants, along with Bluestreak and Sunstreaker two noted capable warriors. Shockwave knelt beside Skywarp and examined him briefly. He extended a cable from his left arm and plugged it into a socket on Skywarp's side and called up a diagnostic. Power levels were so low as to be in hibernation. Shockwave briefly surmised everyone here must be in a similar state. Or worse. Shockwave re-routed some of Skywarp's priorities towards self-repair. With so much damage it would take a while without outside assistance. A long while. But it was all Shockwave could do for now. He ignored the Autobots and looked deeper into the hold. Finding Megatron must have priority for the moment.

    Shockwave gently pushed the body of Mirage aside and climbed over the barricade as stealthily as possible. Two hundred metres away two glinting figures were arguing over something. Shockwave's two head mounted receivers twitched, trying to pick up the conversation. Incredulously Shockwave realised they were arguing over their identity! Selecting a hard phased plasma laser, Shockwave trained his gun arm outwards in case he was seen and moved across the aisle quietly.



    Grimlock looked down at the prone figure in front of Snarl. There was no mistaking Megatron. There was a niggling memory somewhere about Megatron. Something Ironhide has said. Who was Ironhide? Did it matter? Grimlock shook his troubled head. Remembering was so hard. There was one thing he could do positively. Grimlock thumbed a button in the hilt of his Energo Sword. As far as could be told, Megatron was alive but unaware.

    "I think we end Megatron. Do Autobots great service," said Grimlock. Snarl said nothing but took a step back while Swoop hissed with glee, as the distant argument became the only conversation. Grimlock's sword hummed into life, spreading cold white light around the immediate area, highlighting Megatron's grey torso and cranial armour.



    Shockwave stepped around a corner past the prostrate form of Rumble to see a figure he finally recognised as Grimlock holding a powered sword with the clear intention of decapitating Megatron. NO! It MUST NOT happen! Shockwave trained his gun arm out at Grimlock and fired as the huge Autobot had the sword raised overhead. The purple-white beam smashed Grimlock to one side but instantly attracted the attention of the other two he didn't immediately recognise. One looked like it would try to fly, stretching a pair of wings as it started to transform, instantly making him Shockwave's next target for blasting. The Autobot was caught mid-transformation and crashed to the deck hard. The third was firing now and Shockwave fled. He heard crashing somewhere off to his right and amplified voices. Presumably the argument was on hold.

    Shockwave focussed on the hatchway leading from the hold while in the background he called up files on Grimlock and the four brutish cronies that associated with him. The second downed warrior was Swoop with Snarl behind him while Slag and Sludge would be moving to cut him off. None of the three still standing were towering intelligences. There was something in the snatches of conversation he had heard though that scaled the assessment down further. Shockwave turned a corner and leapt over the barricade with Skywarp and his attendant victims, firing boot thrusters and activating his gravity repulsers and shot down the access corridor like a bullet. He had a brief glimpse of Slag and Sludge arriving from a connecting corridor, too slow to intercept. Shockwave crashed himself into the far wall and bounced into the hatchway and was on his way outside and clear.



    Several hours later Grimlock gathered his forces. Not a single Autobot could be raised from whatever form of slumber they were in. Teletran was down and Grimlock did not have the knowledge, or didn't think he had, to repair anything. The live Decepticon had been a rude shock, but Soundwave, Grimlock has misidentified his assailant, had been unable to seriously harm the heavily armoured Grimlock. Swoop was another matter. One wing had been damaged, seriously compromising his ability to fly. The others were unharmed, but mad at letting the Decepticon escape, almost as mad as Grimlock was for being injured by one.

    "Soundwave is using Decepticon small ship to escape us," said Snarl, reporting on Shockwave's escape. "Without Swoop we unable to hurt flying ship."

    "You not try hard enough."

    "We try hard. Where was Grimlock?" Grimlock ignored Slag's question.

    "We must find Soundwave and punish him."

    "Swoop asks if Grimlock still want to end Megatron?" Grimlock considered that one.

    "We punish Soundwave first."

    "How we do that?"

    "Soundwave leak much energon. Wounded Decepticon ship also leak energon. We can follow with this," Grimlock held up a deactivated scanner. "Wheeljack show me once."

    "Where is Wheeljack?" This question made Grimlock uneasy.

    "Not remember what Wheeljack look like. Any Autobot see him?" There was no response apart from Sludge who said 'No'.

    "Are you not remembering things right?" Grimlock continued. One by one his fellows confirmed. The beginnings of a nasty suspicion formed, but only the beginnings. Reasoning was not coming easily to Grimlock. Snarl took the scanner and was turning it over.

    "There is no power."

    "No. We must find some."

    "Then we not chase Soundwave now?" There was a long pause.

    "No. We find Autobot that will talk to us, or make Teletran talk."
     
  5. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Three - Future Shocks --

    In the darkness of the long night of this planet Shockwave was again working hard at the wounded systems of Nemesis, trying to revive another part of the broken spaceship. Shockwave needed a plan. He also needed options, and at least some vague perspective over what was going to happen to him long-term. While considering options Shockwave completed repairs to long-range transmitter. It was not an easy task. Communicating via faster than light techniques was almost as difficult as navigating faster than light. It needed two open hyperspace egress conduits, and there was precious little out here capable of generating a conduit remotely. Shockwave had previously found an Autobot probe in orbit that indicated it could make an egress to allow it to report back to its mothership. Its limited power supply though meant only a few conduits could be created. Maybe three at the most. Once Shockwave had a working hypercomm transmitter he overwhelmed the probes command structure to allow Decepticon signals access.

    "Decepticon Command and Control, this is Shockwave, respond." Shockwave only had to send twice to receive a reply from DC&C's permanently open communications conduit. The visage on screen was familiar.

    "Shockwave. Report," replied the small but exaggerated head of Ratbat.

    "Megatron's expeditionary strike team has made landfall with vessel badly damaged but mission successful. Require medical evacuation to Cybertron."

    "Excellent. We'll send a vessel at once. Now, details. How many wounded?"

    "All bar this unit," stated Shockwave, who then continued to detail the mission at length.

    "So Optimus Prime and Megatron are off line and marooned on another world, far from regular space lanes with no space worthy vessel. This presents opportunities," said an increasingly thoughtful Ratbat. Ratbat straightened suddenly as if a decision had been made. "Shockwave, what is your exact location?"

    "A world called Sol 3. Here are the co-ordinates."

    "Shockwave, you are breaking up. Please repeat." Ratbat's image remained perfectly clear. Shockwave repeated his message.

    "I'm sorry Shockwave I've lost your signal," reported Ratbat impassively. The image winked out. According to the hypercomm system, it had been turned off at the other end. Shockwave waited two hours and reinitialised the conduit. The Autobot probe responded quickly enough, but DC&C was off the air. The conduit that never closed would not receive Shockwave's signal. This required thought.

    If the Autobots had discovered DC&C, or even if there had been just a fault in the system, then the conduit would be re-established later. However Ratbat's final responses had been worrisome. Could he be planning something in Megatron's absence? The Autobot probe remained in orbit, and remained a possibility for use, but what he needed was a system capable of searching for open conduits other than DC&C, and Nemesis’ systems were no longer capable of that.

    Shockwave now had to return to the Ark.

    This meant a showdown with Grimlock. Five against one did bear thinking about. Megatron had to return to Cybertron. Shockwave desperately needed more than superior strategy, he needed more firepower. With that in mind, Shockwave turned towards the gunnery station and prepared himself for more extensive maintenance.



    When the scanner Grimlock had championed continued not working, he quickly lost patience with it. Sludge was more curious and had started slapping it to see if a loose connector might start working. After the third slap the device was useless to anyone. After a fourth it had been reduced to components. By this stage Grimlock had decided that 'Soundwave' was going to come back to the Ark, simply because they could hold the rest of his cohorts’ hostage. Grimlock realising this was not the best idea now refused to be talked out of it, as it was his only idea and he had stopped trying to think of new ones.

    While Grimlock brooded, the others had no clear idea of what to do, so they amused themselves. Slag was randomly burning combustible objects around him. Sludge and Snarl started fights with each other or with Slag. Slag usually chose not to join in, sending gouts of flaming material at them. Swoop on the other hand did what he most loved, and using his new streamlined shape he practiced gliding, trying to fly as far as possible while using his engines as little as possible. It was while doing this that he first noticed the approach of Nemesis.

    "Grimlock! Swoop sees Soundwave coming here." Grimlock's head snapped around as did Slag, while Sludge and Snarl took no notice, intent on playfully gnawing each other to death.



    Shockwave noticed one Autobot was flying an aerial high guard. Nemesis would be seen far too early. A deception would be required, but fortunately it would not have to be very convincing. Shockwave quickly scanned Nemesis weapons systems and found a rearward facing gunnery turret that was already badly damaged and had not been necessary to repair. Shockwave set the turret to charge, while making sure the discharge inhibitors on that turret were non-functional. It would continue charging until the turret melted from overcharging. Chances were it would find something combustible first and....



    Swoop, still gliding around while awaiting orders from the flustered Grimlock, saw the small explosion at the rear of the Gunship; the vessel lurched to the left and crashed the small distance to the ground. Smoke belched from the rear of the craft through the small hole but quickly foamed up as the vacuum rated hull repair system misfired in the thick atmosphere of the planet.

    "Grimlock, back of Decepticon ship all smoky."

    "Swoop, stay up high and bomb Soundwave if he sticks ugly head out of ship," ordered Grimlock. "Autobots spread apart and head for pointy end of Decepticon ship. If you see Soundwave, attack him. Beware of Soundwave's sonic weapons." Grimlock suited actions to words and transformed. The armoured plates over his back rotating forward to form the extended torso and head while his legs retracted and the tail folded together, creating a metallic version of a local carbon based form. The others, already in their imitation reptile forms moved slowly across the ruined field with its deep, de-vegetated, Ark created furrow, towards the Decepticon vessel.



    From the bridge of the Nemesis, Shockwave observed the Autobots clumsily moving into some version of a surrounding or pincer movement. It was hard to tell it was so poorly executed. He immediately picked out Grimlock amongst the quartet, striding arrogantly through the vegetation with no thought of surprise or concealment. For the moment their incompetence made them less threatening. The flying one, Swoop, however was another matter. He had manoeuvrability, and speed the others lacked, while not losing significants amounts of firepower in the process. He had to be taken down now. Shockwave transformed into his weapon mode, arms stretching upwards and unfolding into a barrel while his legs retracted forming a firing platform as his torso split and unfolded and lengthened. Shockwave's barrel was trained outwards and skywards through the huge rent in the bridge, which had been there since planet-fall and had not been repaired. Against his remodelled legs, Shockwave elevated and let his instinctive tracking pick the Autobot out of the sky. With his barrel hidden from view of the others Swoop would get no warning.



    "Sludge must move quicker or we not bash Soundwave together," snarled Grimlock with an oil lust filling his head with the Decepticon who dared shoot him. A thick purple-white beam flashed briefly from the prow of the gunship. Swoop squawked once and fell from the sky like a stone.

    "Swoop! Tell me you still be fighting." There was no answer to Grimlock's hail. While Grimlock tried to get Swoops attention, Soundwave appeared as if by magic out of the side of the ship, weapon trained out towards, but not directly at Grimlock. Soundwave's gun arm held no weapon but ended in a fiercely glowing tube, which fired a very un-sonic energy weapon at that moment, and Snarl cried out and thumped to the ground. Slag responded, sending a stream of fire gel hosing towards the Decepticon Grimlock had decided was not actually Soundwave after all. At the limit of Slag's range the Decepticon managed to retreat from the spray. At that point Grimlock decided his armoured form would not help against this Decepticon and transformed again, freeing up an arm to use his blaster. The purple Decepticon was turning his attention to Sludge now, why not Grimlock. Grimlock lined up his sights and fired.



    Shockwave avoided the flamethrower with ease but his thermal imaging was momentarily a mess, after sending a scarcely aimed shot back towards the flamethrower Shockwave searched for targets, missing Grimlock for the moment with his semi-blinded sensors, but picking out the slowest moving of the four ground based Autobots and rapidly fired three shots in his direction when he was smashed to one side by a graze. The large purple figure, twisted in mid air and fired down what he hoped was a reciprocal bearing before finally surrendering the high ground and sheltering beside the bulk of Nemesis. Grimlock and Slag would be out of view on the other side of Nemesis' prow, but Sludge and the wounded Snarl should be somewhere in front of him. Of the four these two were the least able to project firepower, so Shockwave felt momentarily safer. Snarl appeared at that moment, dorsal fins glowing bright and snarling like Ravage. He crashed through the undergrowth showing no signs of the direct hit he had received before. Shockwave's battle files had shown a vulnerability for Snarl when shaded from solar power, and abruptly thrust his gun arm outwards, shifting spectrum to phased array radar. Quickly plotting Slags position he burst from hiding thrusting and flying vertically away from Nemesis and roughly towards Snarl. Before reaching Snarl, he loosed a volley of shots towards Slag who responded in kind, spewing flaming liquid in Shockwave's direction and covering Snarl's scaly armour, damaging his solar collection fins. Shockwave slammed into Snarl pushing the strange animal form onto his side before thrusting past Sludge who was to slow to put a weapon on his direction.

    The Decepticon, Grimlock still struggled to find a match in his battle files and suspected they might be damaged, was now running away from the Gunship towards terrain Swoop had scouted previously. There was a deep and narrow ravine that had been filling up with viscous material since Grimlock had found the outside world. Shockwave was moving towards the widest part with Sludge leading the pursuit with a much-slowed Snarl. Grimlock transformed again to move over terrain faster and catch up with Slag and Snarl. A thought occurred.

    "Autobots, push Decepticon who might not be Soundwave towards widest part of ground hole, maybe we push him off cliff." Sludge had transformed into warrior mode and was firing his weapon towards the Decepticon as the others closed in.



    The first one, the slow one, had reached the edge of vegetation near the cliff edge and Shockwave hunkered down, resisting the force of Sludges blasts while he waited to for the other three to move into the trap the Shockwave had had to change very little to ensnare these dullards. He sent the signal towards Nemesis computer to fire up the docking anti-gravitational system.



    There was a sudden noise behind Grimlock, but he was so focused on the Decepticon that he all but dismissed it. The vegetation was thrashing about in the sudden wind that had whipped up and there was a buzzing in the air before the roar of heavy weaponry and Sludge was blasted to one side. He transformed and was blasted again, smashed over the edge of a suddenly crumbling cliff. Snarl was smashed next as Grimlock turned and saw the Decepticon gunship, suddenly not so damaged was floating towards them and the huge main guns were firing at the Autobots and into the ground around them. Grimlock ran to one side, forcing the guns to traverse if they were to track him. Looking sideways, the Decepticon had his gun arm outstretched and it was pulsing softly, but not firing that he could tell.



    Shockwave stood still, gun arm trained out towards the bridge where he has firing a modulated laser for manipulating the telemetry for flying and firing Nemesis. Already one Autobot was sinking into the pit below. Grimlock was darting away from the fire zone, so the guns traversed and fired at the huge Autobot, forcing him to retreat cliff wards. Slag was up now and focussing towards Shockwave instead of the oncoming Gunship. Shockwave, looking through Nemesis' sensor suite could see the animalistic form of Slag moving towards the representation of his own body. A thermal bloom appeared in Slag's thorax indicating Slag's was about to unleash his flamethrower. Revelling in the power of the spaceship, Shockwave was unaware of the personal danger he was under, and brought the ships guns to bear, releasing a fusillade on the charging Autobot. The cliff side crumbled around Slag and seemingly in slow motion the Autobot tumbled after its fellow, the guns swept past Shockwave himself undermining his own footing before blasting the burn-blackened figure of Snarl into the viscous pit. Shockwave was himself now falling into the pit after having shot away his own footing; the telemetry link to Nemesis was broken suddenly....

    .... snapping Shockwave back into his own body. He quickly fired his anti gravity systems and propellant to stay airborne, but he was falling, off balance and caromed off the cliff side, out of control. Incoherent snarls of rage came from below him as Slag and Snarl vented their frustration verbally. Of Sludge there was no sign. Slag tried once more to hit his enemy with his flammable spray but his head, almost under the surface was impaired by the fluid, and unable to aim properly. Still Shockwave crashed against the cliff side again whilst flinching away from the Autobot. He rose quickly now looking down below before spinning to the right as he rose over the cliff edge. Nemesis came into view first, sideslipping to the right, but still maintaining altitude. He reached outwards with his arm to re-establish contact.

    PAIN! Tremendous pain! The whole left side of Shockwave's body screamed in pain. The Decepticon twisted his blank face further around to see the black head of Grimlock lit strangely in the glow from his energo sword, dug deep into Shockwave's side, the Autobot behemoth pressing the sword in further, trying to cleave Shockwave in two. With his left arm, his gauntlet reached out and grabbed the hilt of the sword, over Grimlock's two hands. For a few moments the two stood locked together before Shockwave brought his gun barrel against Grimlock's head and pulsed hard radiation through it at point blank range. The Autobot released the sword and fell after his fellows. Grunting with pain and the effort of doing so, Shockwave dragged the deactivated sword from his flank.

    For long moment Shockwave floated over the pit as Grimlock sank from sight beneath the surface of the fluid. He had done it. Against five to one odds he had defeated, the thought stopped, his pain dulled mind suddenly wrapped around the concept of five. There was a puzzle that screamed for an urgent answer when pain re-erupted in his back, and he fell towards the surface of the thickly viscous pool, splashing down hard. A voice whispered in his ear weakly....

    "Got you Soundwave." As Shockwave's sensors began to be overwhelmed, the last sight his sensors recorded was the long narrow head of Swoops animalistic form and a vestigial talon locked into his own shoulder. Shockwave tried to raise his gun arm to summon Nemesis, but the side slipping Gunship was no longer in line of sight for the modulated laser to reach. Shockwave raged against his failure and cried for the future of his race. Without Megatron to lead them, the Decepticons on Cybertron would surely be overwhelmed. Shockwaves sensors went dark. His distress beacon activated, but went unheard. There was no one left to hear it...
     
  6. Clutchburn

    Clutchburn Swollen Member

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    Nice, will you be linking this to your Binaltech universe?
     
  7. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    No. Isolation and Destiny link to the film, while, the much older A Tale Anew is a complete universe reboot.
     
  8. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Four - Revivalist --

    The air was warm and thick with fine dust. A faint film of dust covered some exposed surfaces. Wind whistled about the cabin, coming in through open spaces of the vehicle. Outside was heavily clouded with a thick air of particulate matter. All but the sun was hidden from view in the heavily dusted environs; the yellow star was bloody red smear in the sky. Needles flickered slightly on the console revealing and displaying limited amounts of information; vehicle speed, engine performance and basic diagnostic tools. Where two eyes might have been in an impassive face, dark sunglasses and an air mask hid any impression.

    Brent 'Buster' Witwicky sat in the driver's seat of his venerable but trustworthy Jeep as the kilometres clicked over. Buster had been one of very few vehicles travelling north towards Mount St. Helens in the last few hours. Determined to help in the aftermath of the volcanic explosion, Buster had drifted north. His younger brother Spike often rode him over his sensitive side.

    The air was a mix of noises, a high pitched rumbling from the off-road specification tyres measuring out kilometre after kilometre of bitumen, tinny music from an underpowered radio speaker, wind noise whistling off the sharp corners of the old open cabin Jeep Wrangler and the semi-distant thumping of two bladed Bell helicopters. A sound, which altered suddenly as the more shrill whiney sound of a Dauphine helicopter, flew overhead. The distinctive sound from the French made helicopters enclosed tail rotor providing counterpoint for the louder but more distant Bells. It was probably a news chopper Buster decided.

    Helicopters had been overtaking him all morning, setting out for the site of the disaster. The tinny music paused, heralding another news update. The driver took his right hand off the steering wheel, briefly touched the gearstick, mentally reassuring himself that he was in overdrive. As the Dauphine faded into the background noise, Buster could see a ravine approaching. In the midst of this volcanic activity, the violence of the ancients, Buster pondered about geography and what this ravine might have been millions of years ago. As the bridge approached Buster was had an impulse to stop. Just before the bridge, Buster pulled over to the shoulder and climbed from the car.

    It felt good to stretch his legs, but the shifting of his body from a seated position reminded him of a bodily need he had ignored for several hours. Way out here on the highway heading north that moved gradually towards the Cascades, what cars there were flashed past quickly, heading south towards the Nevadan oasis of Las Vegas. Feeling unobserved Buster moved down the slope behind the bridge abutment to relieve himself, hidden from the traffic by the Jeep and the bridge structure.

    As Buster was finishing, there was a light in the distant mountains; an intensely white jet. It was only there for a moment. As Spike clambered back up the small slope he saw it again. Looking at across the plains, Spike noticed it was coming from the direction the ravine disappeared in. Might it be something connected with the eruption? Was a second volcano appearing?

    Re-mounting the jeep he headed off the interstate and towards the mountains. The day was still young there was plenty of time.



    The first parts of the Ark to notice anything were a few of the surviving short-range passive sensors. Temperature fluctuations in the surrounding rock had not been this substantial since the beginning. Energon collectors began collecting small amounts of energy, which was channelled directly to Teletran, which in its dormant state was unable to direct it to priorities, allowing automated self-repair systems to benefit initially. The explosion several days later of the semi-distant volcanic caldera shook the Ark's surroundings. Some loose connectors moved home, and others were disconnected. Millimetre by millimetre, the Ark was returning to life.



    The Ark's on board systems hovered slowly, booting up Teletran's basic systems. Teletran though was damaged. The higher reasoning functions would not be able to operate. The automated medical programs were intact and the small rover androids, idle for millennia started work on caring for those within the Ark.

    A hatch opened in the rear of the Ark and a small rocket emerged and launched itself skywards. It achieved a low orbit and began recording what it saw, sending the information back to Teletran. Some objects looked suitable and were given more detailed inspections. There was now sufficient information to assemble some templates and download that into plasmic shells. One by one, the bodies within the hold were carried by the androids into a wall mounted chamber and after around a day would be returned to where they lay, their lines subtly, and not so subtly different from before. The process was slow and it world take a series such shocks through the surroundings over the next four local cycles before another semi-distant set of explosions and tremors caused the final stages of revival.

    Deep within the bowels of the Ark, one of its charges was returning to life....



    Basic sensors came on first, exploring its own shell. Core programming was checked then activated. System wide mechanical checks on minimal power settings gave a rough idea of system condition. A report was extrapolated from empirical data and the self-test results and forwarded to the CPU. Batteries checked out charged but the alternator had no other power sources. A critical parameter was met then exceeded and the main systems were brought on line. Banks of processing systems were brought online, intelligence index quickly building until another parameter was met, and the index started climbing exponentially as a simple computer achieved self-awareness. It's first thought, though conditioned, was not one built into any internal checklist. I AM SKYWARP!

    Visual scanners flickered and quickly stabilised giving Skywarp a sense of his surroundings. Temperatures were high. Higher than Cybertronian norm, and much higher than vacuum. There was gravity, and it wasn't artificial. He was alive and he had achieved landfall somewhere. There was no light of any kind. Memory returned and images of the battle in space were quickly reviewed. Internal clock sought out any broadcasting clock, but there was none, so Skywarp had no idea how long he'd been off line.

    There was no light of any kind in the room, but enough ambient heat to make infrared uncomfortable but possible. Immediately in front of him were the Autobots he had shot in his ferocious final stand. The memory brought a grin to the mechanical face.

    Skywarp moved forward towards the desperately held barricade. He noticed the high and mighty Prowl still lying where he had shot him, at the second attempt. A moment of indignation overcame Skywarp and he kicked Prowl's midsection, hard. The Autobot gave no response that he had even felt it, leaving Skywarp vaguely dissatisfied.

    Leaping the barricade the Decepticon hunted for evidence of its fellows, hopefully Starscream, Megatron or Shockwave. Rumble was his first discovery, just as inactive as the Autobots. The blocky shape of Soundwave he could see down the neighbouring aisle. Upon inspection Soundwave was in as much trouble as everyone else. Laserbeak was loaded in Soundwave's chest. Perhaps Laserbeak had run and hid in Soundwave in the final moments. Not exactly an un-typical example of Laserbeak cowardice.

    Over the next few hours Skywarp located all of the Decepticons from the strike team, except Shockwave, in the immediate vicinity of the hold. All were dormant, and beyond Skywarp's abilities to reach. He'd also found a large amount of Autobots; more than Megatron had led them to believe would be on board. Instead of roughly even numerical odds there were approximately twice as many Autobots as Decepticons. Soundwave was the intelligence specialist for this mission. He would suffer Megatron's wrath if they ever come on line. Skywarp looked over Soundwave again. What was Laserbeak's status? Encased within Soundwave, Skywarp had over looked him.

    Skywarp pried open Soundwave's torso to look over the compacted Laserbeak. Unlike the other, Laserbeak was nominal but deactivated. Activating Laserbeak would achieve little, other than the annoyance of Laserbeak for company, as he surely would be less help than Skywarp could himself provide. But if Laserbeak's activation could kick-start Soundwave...

    Without access to Gunship Nemesis database Skywarp backtracked through his own activation sequence to make a guess at what to do. Did Laserbeak have enough stored power to activate the much larger Soundwave? After several hours of fierce concentration, Skywarp was ready to try. He paused. Worst case? There might be a surge powerful enough to permanently fry Laserbeak and brain damage Soundwave. Not a big loss in either case. Without any kind of diagnostic readout Skywarp wouldn't know if it had worked until Soundwave said something or moved.

    After a short wait Skywarp shrugged and leaned in closer to inspect what damaged was done to Laserbeak when Soundwave sat up suddenly and howled. Jerkily the blue Decepticon clutched at its torso groping amongst the fresh cabling in his chest to remove the flat shape of the dormant Laserbeak. Skywarp pried it loose and Soundwave ripped the flat shape free. Skywarp wondered how the clinical Soundwave would respond, once able. He should have known.


    "Report!" The voice, even for a Decepticon was flat and lifeless, completely without inflection. Skywarp explained what he knew, making sure to point out his own tactical success, to which Soundwave was totally unimpressed. Soundwave wasn't impressible, he just was. Skywarp suspected he was soon to be very busy. He would not be disappointed.



    Buster had spent several hours driving the Jeep along roads, which, with each junction, got smaller and less well maintained. About a quarter of an hour ago tarmac had ended abruptly, and now the track was getting rougher and rougher, with still no sign of a fence or a closed gate to impede his progress anywhere. He guessed he must be on private land, but it was only a guess and the rocky ground had steadily increased until there was no track at all but mountain foothills.

    The impression of a wide furrow, with a dry creek bed running down its centre, remained. Buster debated for a moment. The track, what remained of it, now ran parallel to the rocky outcropping he had pinpointed hours ago. A small forest covered the ground ahead of the outcrop, limiting the likely options. There were distant noises and the forest seemed to be moving in small areas. Buster reconsidered his previously charitable intentions of heading to the St. Helens disaster area and decided a mechanics apprentice wouldn't make much of a difference either way.

    Buster dismounted from the Jeep and locked the hubs in the centre of both front wheels, engaging the four-wheel drive and steered off the road, heading up the wide creek bed. Night was falling by the time he reached the edge of the forest. He had seen no packs, but there was much noise coming from further in. Having wasted a day on curiosity, Buster grabbed his satchel, pocketed the keys and stuffed what junk food he had left from several gas stations along the way and headed inland. As he climbed uphill it began to sound like tree felling, which left Buster disappointed. A very innocuous explanation. He was on the point of giving up when he heard a series of high pitched whines and coloured light seemed to wash over parts of the trees.

    Buster moved forward more cautiously now, moving past the commotion with the intention of coming into view from one side. There were sounds of heavy treads and some voices.

    Buster looked on in amazement as two humanoid figures cleared a wide pathway through the forest, arguing in a language he could not understand. Both were approximately ten feet tall that Buster could tell, and were.... they looked like robots from a science-fiction film, and a cheap one at that. While basically human in shape, sharp angles stuck out at various points in their... armour? Could they be humans in some kind of battle armour?

    One had his armour decked out on two shades of blue, light and dark, with his upper torso mostly dark blue with some golden highlights on each breast. His companion had the same lines, but black instead of dark blue, and a venomous red in place of the lighter blue. Protruding from their shoulder blades was a pair of chromed tubes, which looked very much like slung rifles.

    Leaving the pair to continue to argue, Buster walked deeper and quickly came upon a cliff face that the newly created forest path finished. Sticking out of the base of the cliff was something very large, at least partially buried, and definitely metallic.

    A sound like a jet engine broke into Buster's reverie at this point and as he turned, a golden orange bird flashed past his vision. But it was not a bird. In the same way the two figures he'd seen before weren't human. It was a bird wearing the same kind of armour the other two had been in gold and block. Essentially flat in cross section with two sharp angular wings, two talons and a pair of engines mounted on top with chromed tubes projecting from the engine's air intakes, and a double-hinged neck. The armoured condor was roughly the size of an albatross. A very large albatross. Buster decided he didn't know how big an albatross was but this was bigger.

    It descended rapidly and slowed until just above walking pace, certainly slower than it would take to fly aerodynamically un-powered and drifted into a recess in the cliff. Or wall. Or whatever the hell it was.

    Armoured people, robot eagles. Cliffside base. The whole concept excited Buster, and as light decreased rapidly, Spike made his way forward towards where the eagle hand been. Around a curve in the rock appeared a passageway. If that was what you could call it. It was the sort of passageway suitable for a cathedral. Or the sort of passage used by very large armoured soldiers. Much larger than the two he had seen.

    At this point Buster decided that perhaps he was getting in over his head. The budget to create weaponry like this was very serious indeed, and likely to be guarded well. A chill raced its way up Busters spine, also reminding him the sun had almost set, and without light he might not find his way back to the Wrangler. Buster looked down the passage, there was light coming from within. Where there was light there would be trouble. Turning away, he noticed heavy treads sounding from behind him. Forced to retreat from the voices Buster jogged further down the tunnel, looking for a hideaway. A passageway branched to the left and was shrouded in shadow. Buster ducked into the huge passageway and crouched down. After what seemed like an age, the two incongruously coloured armoured soldiers, passed by without further comment, from either of them.

    Buster moved back to the corner and watched the two figures tread their way along a floor, which Buster realised, was smooth metal, not rock. He turned and looked back in the direction he had come in, but a figure was there now. The silhouette made it look like a big cat. A very big cat. He was sure Cougars didn't come that big. It prowled around briefly and Buster had the briefest glimpse of glowing yellow eyes. He looked along the passageway he had come. He moved along its featureless extent. Buster noticed a small pile of rubble on the floor ahead. When he reached the rubble he noticed it had came from a large crack in the wall. It was wide enough for Spike to climb and there was light at the top, only ten metres or so steeply inclined upwards. If there was light up there, there was a way out. A way out without damned oversize Cougars, Condors or troopers.

    By the time Buster had climbed halfway up, it seemed more like fifteen metres and he didn't like looking down. He had also decided that it wasn't natural light ahead, because it had the slightly bluish look of artificial light. That and a quick check of his wristwatch told him it was well and truly night outside.

    The view from the to of the rent was onto a room with three sides. A passageway looked like it led off to Busters left while ahead the wall was about twice his height. Three armoured suits lay untended on the floor, each of them larger than the two he had seen earlier, two of the larger than the third. The two larger ones looked very much alike and were very blocky, one red the other white. The smaller one was silver and more, jagged. The white one was nearest; prominent on the shoulder he could see was a large red cross.

    The rent also came to a halt some ten feet above the floor. If he leapt down he would not be able to return to the rent. The red cross though was re-assuring. A medic or doctor would be more understanding of his predicament then a pair of grumbling soldiers. Buster could see there was a large clear panel high on the armoured suits chest, presumably to allow the pilot to see out. Reflections from the nearby light prevented Spike from confirming this.

    Buster jumped down, still hoping to find a doctor in this deserted area. It seemed strange the armour would be left lying around like this, but perhaps it was easier to work on them like this. Indeed and access panel appeared to be open on the right side of the white suits flank. Buster, checking there was no one about walked over for a closer look. The mechanic in him suddenly interested in what these suits were made of.

    Inside the panel it looked old. Surprisingly old. It was dirty and dusty and very intricate. The interior he could get at bristled with electronics. And what looked like a large pair of contacts gunged with dirt, or something. Buster plucked the ever-present rag from his jeans pocket and reached out to wipe the contacts clean.



    With awareness came alarms. Once Ratchet became aware of who he was and what he could do, he lifted himself and looked around him. Ironhide and Camshaft were present. Their health telemetry redlined. If there was any energy left in either of them he couldn't tell. The telemetry though was approximate, based on Ratchets sensors only. They weren't broadcasting anything. The hasty field-dressing Ratchet had welded to Camshafts torso was gone, repaired more thoroughly and seamlessly. Looking twice he noticed Camshafts torso was more pronounced than it had been previously, while Ironhide's head sat taller on his shoulders and his torso seemed to be entirely different. Belatedly he noticed the same changes in himself. Otherwise, there was little Ratchet could do for them other than find them energon. Of Optimus Prime there was no sign.

    Voices drifted up from below in the hold proper and Ratchet moved towards the balcony edge with a jaunty rejoinder prepared to grab attention. The sound of laughter floated over the balcony lip. Laughter that froze Ratchet to his core. Megatron's laughter. Ratchet retuned his hearing to more accurately pick up the conversation.

    "Oh this is delicious Starscream. What a pleasant way to awaken, to find your enemy unconscious and completely at your mercy. Soundwave, are all Decepticons accounted for?", Megatron was easily

    "Negative. Shockwave unlocated. Analysis of Skywarp's systems recovery indicates Shockwave's presence. No further evidence of activity. Gunship Nemesis not in vicinity. Considerable signals activity, indicating presence of technology higher than on orbital scans."

    "We have to find Nemesis if we are to get off this world. Starscream, check with Ravage inspecting this ships systems and make sure every Autobot on this ship is found, I want no miraculous survivors. Thundercracker go up to where we found Prime and retrieve the other bodies. I want to Prime to see what we do to his troops before we leave. Soundwave, find Shockwave and Nemesis. And determine the nature of this other technology source."

    "Acknowledged." At this point with Decepticons distracted by duties, Ratchet risked exposing his head to see. There was little light, but Megatron could be seen standing before the body of Optimus Prime, arms crossed, looking down at his imprisoned foe. Starscream had already disappeared from view and Soundwave was moving towards the small egress hatchway beside the wrecked main hold bay doors. Thundercracker was moving towards Ratchet, but not looking in his direction. There was additional movement in the far reaches of the bay, but who or what could not be pinned down.

    Thundercracker disappeared from sight, beneath the lip of the balcony. In seconds he would be up here. Ratchet looked around behind him, looking for options, making plans his medical based command experience gave him no background for. The large figure stopped when it sighted Spike.




    What struck Thundercracker was how thin the air of euphoria had been, and how bleak the situation was beyond the short term. The large blue Decepticon did not share his fellow's enthusiasm for their current situation. Megatron positively burned with excitement at having these Autobots so completely at his mercy. His raid commander Starscream too could not keep from smiling and even cackling on occasion. Thundercracker felt out of place. All he had was questions. How were they going to return to Cybertron? The Ark would plainly never fly again and it was a far sturdier vessel than the absent Nemesis. Where was Nemesis? And Shockwave too for that matter. And why had the rest of the Seekers missed the flight?

    Starscream and Cyclonus had fought hard to get the group aboard the Nemesis, when casualties had forced a non-mission status rating on the unit just prior to departure. The way the two had been speaking had more than indicated they were up to some intrigue. Starscream had not let him in on the agenda however, and Skywarp was no help. The black Seeker was caught up in the euphoria that spread from Megatron down, and in his own role in their revival from slumber. And Skywarp wasn't the smartest warrior to emerge from the template mould.

    Right up until departure Starscream had insisted more Seekers were coming, despite Thundercracker knowing that only Cyclonus was not on the wounded list. Dirge, Ramjet and Thrust were relatively lightly injured, and could have joined the trip but Scourge and Sunstorm were incapacitated short term. Thundercracker had also remembered the look on Thrusts face the last time he had seen him, and it was a face smugly telling Thundercracker that I know something that you don't. There had been no sign of Cyclonus, or Thrust or any of the others when the Ark left orbit and blasted past the moon where the Nemesis has been surreptitiously moored.

    Starscream had not seemed that concerned and certainly much less concerned than Megatron by the absentees, but whatever Starscream was planning, he hoped he would not have to choose between Starscream and Megatron. Making the wrong choice would be exceedingly painful. If Starscream wanted to rely on Thundercracker's loyalty he had better confide soon.

    The elevator doors hissed open and Thundercracker turned right to head towards the gallery. Two grey legs, and the head of Ironhide were in view through the entrance. As was something moving. It looked like a miniature Autobot. However it was plainly not made of skin. It looked ugly and squashable. Was this a local life form? It appeared to be wearing flimsy armour, and quick look at high magnification made it look manufactured. And suddenly Thundercracker was afraid. Afraid of this unarmed tiny little soft creature.

    Thundercracker had been on long-range sensors when Nemesis had emerged from hyperspace. The world below them had been totally primitive. There was no industry and no signals intelligence and the dominant life forms appeared to be huge lizards, an evolutionary blind alley. Either this creature was an alien itself or it had evolved here, to the point of industrialisation. The point slammed home with enough force that Thundercracker near froze on the spot while he considered the implications.

    How long have I been unconscious?

    There was a sudden pain in Thundercracker's back and something pulled back on his neck. Something pressed his right wing back against his body and he grasped at the spindly-flanged arm across his throat, trying to pry it loose. There was a sudden pain in the side of his head and a murmured voice.

    "I'm sorry Thundercracker."



    Thundercracker lay on the floor before Ratchet with a light scalpel sticking from the right side of his head, still humming softly. The wound leaked a little hydraulic fluid but was a relatively minor injury, just debilitating. It still left the medic wondering what it would take for this war to end. The small fleshy thing was staring fixatedly at Thundercracker's head. Had it no concept of the danger it was in? Ratchet bent over Thundercracker and pried one of his arm-mounted cannons loose. Quickly plugging in a cable Ratchet carefully inserted some of his intelligence into the cannon, trying to find a way past security systems that would not let him fire the weapon. He also grabbed Camshafts blaster and one of Camshafts mortar rockets. Embedded in Camshafts launcher, the rocket would not easily release. Using his small medical tools he started to pry the rocket loose.

    The translation systems were starting to make sense of the creature's speech, although it was using a highly complicated dialect, increasing the difficulty of translation, but also indicating a reasonable level of cultural development. Which gave Ratchet some hope of compatible technologies and possibly a way home.

    He heard Megatron's voice below and stopped his thought processes; he was getting a long way ahead of himself. Ratchet reviewed the recording at Megatron's voice and replayed.

    "Soundwave, commence reviving Prime. I want him to watch as we destroy his followers."

    It certainly got Ratchets attention. What could he do to try and rescue Prime, but at the same time, ensure at least one member of this expedition went on? If he sacrificed himself in a failed rescue attempt it did not gain the Autobots anything. If worst came, he would have to watch the executions. But there had to be another option.

    Optimus Prime's health telemetry feed spiked and settled erratically. The majority of his sensors were offline, disconnected along with the rest of his body. But the personality and intellect were unimpaired according to the telemetry feed. Ratchet ran down the list of options, not just for Prime but also for any of the Autobots in the vicinity.

    And suddenly Ratchets decision was made when another telemetry feed sparked stutteringly into life. His life too would be suddenly in danger the moment he started moving as he was in full view of half the Decepticons present. It was Prowl.



    "So Prime, awaiting the moment your body obeys thoughts? That moment will not be forthcoming. Your motor functions have been disconnected." Optimus immediately gave up any pretence and the blue eyes burned once more.

    "What do you want from me Megatron?"

    "Entertainment Prime, nothing more. I am hoping you will be so. Morale has decayed here on this frontier world. My troops need some motivation. Who first Starscream? That annoying bodyguard of his, Ironhide? The know-it-all Prowl?"

    "Jazz. I am so sick of his voice and his turning up suddenly out of nowhere," there was glee in Starscream's voice, and a look of excitement on his face that made Optimus Prime sick to the internals that he could not feel.

    "Jazz. Skywarp fetch Jazz for Prime here, they may have some touching last words for each other." Megatron folded his arms and stared down at his foe of so many years, relaxing at last with the conflict finally over. Optimus returned his gaze, defiant, but not trusting anything to voice as he weighed options, searching for some bargaining tool to save Jazz life. To save the lives of all aboard The Ark. He was cut-off from his fellows and there was no one in sight not longing for his execution. Megatron was plainly identifiable, but he looked different. Starscream even more so. The Decepticons had been templated.

    The dark figure of he presumed to be Skywarp appeared in his peripheral vision carrying uncomfortably over his shoulder a white figure he did not recognise as Jazz until his face came into view. So the Autobots had been templated too. How long would that take?

    "Should we try to revive Jazz first? Some last famous wisecrack?" suggested Starscream, looking like he was itching to hold Jazz life against his trigger.

    "Megatron. You have been templated," said Prime.

    "Yes, your vessel appears to have been quite competent in that regard," said Megatron. He lifted his arm with the cannon mounted, clearly pleased with the lines.

    "If we were all templated, how long have we been here? And what were we templated from?" This question got through and Megatron paused.

    "That matters not Prime. We can not have been gone long, else a rescue party would have been sent."

    "Are the rabble you left behind that loyal to you? Did you even get a distress call away when your ship crashed?"

    "Nemesis did not crash," said Megatron, stretching the absence of evidence to breaking point. "Shockwave will be here to collect us shortly, leaving us enough time for some... recreation."



    Prowls vision was pixelated. Power supply was severely compromised. He should be off-line, but was not. Self-repair systems had pushed him towards awareness, but it seemed an awareness of definition only. His hands moved slowly, there was movement to his left as something white beside him shifted and vanished. Vision cleared momentarily and he suddenly identified Jazz being carried over the shoulder of a figure he couldn't recognise and his vision pixelated again. Audio sensors cleared and Megatron's voice clearly rang through the background noise and static. Prowls enquiring hands closed around something immediately familiar and Prowl subconsciously checked over his rifle and slowly started to roll over prone to bring the rifle to bear.



    Skywarp unceremoniously dumped Jazz in a heap at Megatron's feet.

    "He's not reviving. Power must be too low." Skywarp appeared to shrug, a manoeuvre he was having difficulties with since he acquired a pair of long air intakes jutting from his shoulders, then stepped back as Megatron brought his cannon around to bear on the head of the comatose Autobot.



    Pain wracked suddenly through Prowls body, causing a brief convulsion, which knocked against the rattling components of the makeshift barricade. Nearest to the barricade was Frenzy, who turned suddenly, his blaster suddenly outstretched around his forearm, moving towards the sound. Soundwave, picking up a feed from Frenzy tensed.

    "Megatron, movement," called the flat inflectionless voice of the communicator. Megatron, and the majority of the Decepticons heads present snapped around looking for the source of danger, one by one snapping on to Frenzy, although Starscream remained fixated on Optimus Prime and Jazz. Frenzy's run suddenly halted and he fell backwards having taken one of Prowls acid darts in the chest, with a laser blast following the dart to injure the Decepticons compromised armour. Gun arms came up but only a few sought cover. It was only one Autobot.



    Ratchet watched in dismay as Prowl betrayed his position and blasted Frenzy to the floor. He concentrated momentarily and sent an urgent message to all Autobots present. Using the emergency medical protocols he had access to, Ratchet commanded all Autobots to revive from their slumber. He was aware that most would either be unable to respond, or would revive much like Prowl and be as much a liability as a help. But any additional guns could make the difference and save the lives of all here. The medic held no illusions about what would happen if he were unable to drive off the Decepticons in this moment. Ratchet then bashed the rocket he had taken from Camshaft on its end, stood up the balcony and hurled the rocket like a grenade down into the middle of the cluster of the Decepticons and whispered an apology to himself for any hurt he may cause Optimus or Jazz. The rocket landed at Rumbles feet as fire started to track in at Prowl, and exploded. The small Decepticon was blasted off his feet, taking the brunt of the blow and was hurled against Skywarp and knocked him off his feet. Ratchet, with a free hand now, had scooped up Camshafts blaster, and holding his own weapon in his other hand, fired down at the Decepticons, picking out Megatron first, before tracking in on Starscream who looked as though he might blast the two Autobots at his feet. Ratchet started to receive active data feeds, and at least two were functional.

    "All Autobots, fire fight in the hold, repel boarders urgent."



    "Multiple weapon signatures, at least three Autobots firing," called Soundwave above the sudden din. Soundwave noticed two weapons firing from the balcony were not well spaced, and started to speculate over whether their was only one Autobot in the balcony. Moving into cover from the barricade, Soundwave tracked his concussion blaster in between the weapons firing downwards and fired. Both weapons stopped firing.

    "Megatron, suspect one Autobot in balcony position using two weapons."

    "Only one?" pondered Megatron, before tracking his cannon towards the savaged structure above him. There was an explosion and Soundwave staggered backwards against Megatron, spoiling his aim. The missile had come from an unexpected direction.

    "Third axis of attack," belatedly reported Soundwave. The Decepticons were pinned down and quickly surrounded. Even if Autobots numbers were as slim as Soundwave had speculated they were pinned down and horribly exposed. His mind raged against the embarrassment of retreating, and from such a position of apparent superiority, but increasingly as fire from another position appeared, it was the only option.

    "Decepticons, fall back towards bay doors and retreat."

    "NO!" screamed Starscream. The grey flight commander was standing in the open, in a rare moment of courage, or perhaps just denial, firing null rays with near abandonment at anything that moved, even hitting Ravage as he was moving stealthily towards the new threat coming from the back of the hold. Skywarp had retreated towards the antechamber exit, finally putting down the firing coming from the barricade as he did so. While carrying Rumble under one arm. As Soundwave reached Skywarp's position he tossed Rumble towards Soundwave who activated Rumbles transformation and tucked the small tablet away in his chest cavity. Frenzy was mobile again and retreating towards the entrance while Laserbeak was already gone outside.

    "Where is Thundercracker?" yelled Skywarp. This finally got Starscream's attention and he broke off his random firing and noticed he was being left behind. Snarling with rage he transformed suddenly and blasted his way outbound just as a small red figure emerged into view and attempted to track Starscream with laser fire and failed. The only Decepticon left in the hold now was Buzzsaw and the small golden avian dived downwards and grabbed some dark object in his talons as he finally retreated. The small red figure of Cliffjumper emerged into the open and tried to bring down the small figure, failing to hear Ratchets urgent cry as he did so. Just as Buzzsaw cleared the opening to follow Megatron out of the hold airlock Cliffjumper scored a hit and Buzzsaw dropped the object.



    "Frag! Almost nailed the critter," cursed a surprisingly active Cliffjumper. Ratchet was yelling.

    "Get that object!"

    "Why?" asked the exasperated Cliffjumper.

    "It is Prime's head!"



    The moment firing had started Buster turned tail and ran. There was such a thing as curiosity but these mechanical behemoths were packing more firepower than he could comprehend, and without any form of defence or protection, this was no place to be. He reached the entrance passageway he had come in before the one group had started retreating and raced outside to where he had left his Jeep. Just as he reached the car, an armoured eagle burst out of the passage behind him. Buster waited as the various armoured figures stormed out behind him and tried be as inconspicuous as possible sheltering behind his Jeep. Finally a gold eagle blasted outside, chased by movie style weapons fire and it dropped something it was holding in its talons, which bounced several times directly towards the Jeep. Suddenly panicked Buster ran, fearing some bomb or other was being thrown at him.

    The object struck the Jeep with a thump, but nothing further happened. Buster moved quickly back to the Jeep, and prayed to a god he believed only in the abstract, that it would start first time. The Cherokee gave no trouble and Buster was away, back along the track back towards the interstate.
     
  9. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Five - Investigations --

    The air was cool, dry and odourless. The room was sterile, devoid of any life and the only movement of air came when a door opened and someone passed through, eddying the flow as the two rooms that now had access to each other tried to equalise. There was no sun, no windows and no natural light of any kind. Just a set of faintly bluish fluorescent tubes at regular intervals above the large polished wood conference table. Unlike most such tables in the building, the polish was not millimetres thick, but just enough to be functional. At each end of the table were large digital screens one dormant, the other, behind the tables only occupant, was set on a default screen displaying a map of the globe and was colour coded indicators flickered periodically across the screen displaying limited amounts of information; threat warnings and unit readiness of various military commands. An Army officer sat at the table. The tall figure had folded himself into one of the conference chairs. Full of craggy, almost cracked facial features from years spent in the field, squinting into sunsets, baking under desert suns, under layers of camouflage paint. Hair was typically closely cropped military cut with a salt and pepper look of advancing years on what was once jet black. A thin face with sunken eyes and a slightly oversized thin nose, 'Hawk' had been a natural nickname for Brigadier General Perkele A. Stewart as an upcoming officer, but as a flag officer, all his peers were rivals for vacant Major General positions and such friendly familiarity was scarce. Even more so in Stewarts position which seemed to operate almost outside the direct chain of command. In his late 40's now, Stewart has spent most of his career in infantry and later mechanised infantry after a slightly troubling knee injury, holding a variety of operations and command positions, during the height of the institutionalised government led paranoia of the Cold War. As he progressed up the ranks both he and his commanders noticed a talent for intelligence which had brought him increasingly challenging assignments including occasional Special Forces assignments. While an aggravation of the knee injury had caused him to fail Ranger qualification, he had served with light infantry and in paratroops as well as Delta Force and the Marine Corps Green Berets on exchange. The combination of Special Forces and intelligence assignments had led to his present billet as commander of Special Investigations Unit. The word 'Special' means many things in military parlance. Apart from elite fighting groups, 'Special' usually means nuclear weapons. The name gave Stewart's group the air of someone with the sufficient authority to investigate nuclear forces, not something lightly given, but in this case it did not mean nuclear weapons. The assumption, if made did add an air of menace to his team that he did nothing to dispel.

    The door opened and a blue uniformed US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel entered the conference room, a leather briefing satchel tucked under one arm.

    "What does Air Intelligence have for us this week Colonel?"

    "Thermal blooms sir," said Colonel Roberts from the Air Force Air Intelligence Agency. Stewart decided if Roberts resented giving Air Force gathered intelligence to someone from another branch of service, he hid it well. The group, attached to the Eighth Air Force, gathered intelligence for senior Air Force staff on items relevant to the security of the USAF and potential airborne threats to US forces. Roberts usually handled briefings to senior staff and had been asked to restate a portion of his most recent briefing to General Stewart as a courtesy.

    "You have my attention Colonel, please continue. And give me the grand tour, don't assume I may know something you take for granted."

    "Sir. Thermal blooms on infra red satellite scans can usually mean anything, but above a certain size possibilities narrows considerably. Ballistic missile launches are quite distinctive from other missile launches for example, although we have to wait for trajectory to tell the difference between a ballistic missile and a space shot."

    "This was a thermal bloom that appeared in Washington state last Thursday in the Cascade Ranges." Roberts handed Stewart a glossy photo image.

    "We have no facilities in that area? Launch silos, weapons facilities, energy producing sites?"

    "No sir. The area was thought too volatile for development since the war. Its not all that far from Mount Saint Helens." It had been over four years since a volcano dormant for over a century and thought to be extinct has exploded suddenly and violently claiming 66 lives in the ensuing disaster.

    "Its not related to the volcano in anyway? A new geothermal plume?"

    "No sir. Too hot for anything other than molten lava. This is not the first time such phenomena have been discovered at this location. Back in 1980 during the big Saint Helens eruption this occurred." Roberts passed over another glossy print, with another thermal bloom on it. "After re-analysis of the 1980 image it would appear that it was a launch of some kind, but a small one, probably non-military in nature."

    "Rocket scientists?"

    "Perhaps. It's impossible to be sure without examining the vehicle. The second one... seems to be out gassing of some kind, but its not volcanic in nature, and it appears to be radioactive, slightly."

    "Slightly?"

    "Not enough to be harmful to the few local residents."

    "NEST team analysis?"

    "This information has not been released to the Atomic Energy Commission."

    "Why not?"

    "Because of this." Roberts handed over a third image. Stewart was slow to pick up the significance. There were two fighters, undoubtedly F-15s flying away from the site in question, along with what appeared to be humanoid figures, lying prone with arms outstretched, as if flying like comic book superheroes.

    "Analysis?"

    "No-one is willing to sign off on anything, speculation has been wild, but there were no F-15s operating in the area. The figures, compared to the F-15s appear to be roughly 10-15 metres long for the larger ones."

    "Your opinion?"

    "Are we developing some kind of bipedal armour system?"

    "You know I can't answer that Colonel." Stewart emphasised the difference in rank between the two to imply he knew more than he was letting on, and to discourage the Air Force officer from following along that line of investigation. Which was standard operating procedure, but there were real reasons for it in this instance.

    Stewart was alarmed because he didn't know what they were. It would be his job to find out.

    "Were we able to track them at all?"

    "They went east briefly but as they got closer to population centres they veered away and disappeared into Nevada somewhere."

    Nevada. That would make things tricky. The gambling state was riddled with secret and very secret Air Force and Army facilities. Getting the imagery he wanted would take too long because of security classiications, and because of a reluctance to use SIUs special powers. Stewart thanked Roberts who left quickly. The moment Roberts had left, the other doors opened and US Army officers stepped into the room and the display behind Stewart sprang into detailed activity.

    "Captain, I need to get a line into the Chief of Staff."

    "Sir." One of the officers picked up a handset and dialled a number. After a few words the Army Captain punched a button on the phone and pointed to another handset nearby Stewart's seat.

    Stewart's second-in-command, Colonel Bourne started leafing through the imagery Roberts had left for the General.

    "ET's sir?"

    "Certainly looks like it," said Stewart firmly. He had always expected this would happen someday, just he hoped not while he was alive. What ever they were, once the public was aware they existed, everything would change. "Problem is selling it to the Joint Chiefs. Once we do then they have to face up to having beings this powerful running around in our borders with no leash and an unknown agenda. What I fear most at this point Colonel is an over-reaction out of fear. This is worse than terrorism, because we can at least expect terrorists to live down to our expectations of them."

    "Maybe they are friendly?"

    "If they aren't and we can't defeat them quickly while they are still in the desert, then life on this planet is going to change. It's not like we can disguise them. They're too damn big."

    "General Pickett's office," said a voice issuing from a speaker somewhere in the room.

    "General Stewart, SIU, urgent communication for General Pickett."

    "General Pickett is in conference at the moment."

    "Put me through this is important."

    "Hold sir." There was a pause. A different voice came on the line.

    "Stokell." Major General Stokell was Pickett's senior aide. A two star General and yet an assistant in role. It was however a prestige position and attracted General staff whom still held career ambitions at this rank. His major role was filtering the vast quantity of information which was channelled towards the Joint Chief Chairman which was not funneled through the individual Chiefs. Stokell was also a former comrade from infantry days.

    "Paul, Perkele at SIU." He could picture a hint of a smile on the face of the heavy set man on the other end of the phone.

    "Hawk, what can I do for you?" There was no smile in Stokell's voice. It was the sound of a man under pressure.

    "Something I need to know going on?" There was a long pause. There was definately bustling activity in the background. Wherever Stokell was, he wasn't at his desk.

    "Look Hawk, can you state your piece, then I can reply meaningfully."

    "After reviewing some imagery received from Air Intelligence via NORAD I believe we may be issuing a Fallen Angel alert." There was another long pause.

    "I think you need to speak to the man. Be aware he's in briefing at the moment at the Situation Room at the moment with POTUS, Hodges, de Cesaris, Fury, Pentti and the Joint Chiefs. I'll patch you over." With a click there was silence. One thing about the Pentagon's phone system, was no on hold music to annoy the crap out of anyone waiting. It would certainly be a star studded audience listening in on the other end. Alain Pentti was the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Fury the Secretary of Defence, Michaela de Cesaris was the Presidents National Security Advisor, and Darrell Hodges the Presidents Chief of Staff. And POTUS was the appreviation for President Of The United States.

    "Pickett."

    "Sir this is Brigadier General Stewart, SIU."

    "Yes General?" Stewart decided some decorum was in order and picked up the nearest handset, punching a button as he did so, cutting out the background noises from his own sit room.

    "I believe we have a Fallen Angel sir."

    "You are sure about this General? I need to know because I think you can contribute to a situation here in the White House Sit-room." Stewart took a deep breath. Here was the moment of his career. He had been entrusted with a agency that acted as the axe which breaks open the glass seal over the emergency alarm, and he was being asked to smash it in front of the President. Based on this slim evidence, this was a matter for international concern. This was not a time for hesitation. Stewart decided he was ready to put himself into the flames.

    "I do sir." There was a brief moment of silence on the other end of the line before sound quality changed dramatically and background noise increased.

    "Mister President I have Brigadier General Stewart of the Army Special Investigations Unit on speaker phone now. Go ahead General." Stewart had never had this sort of attention from senior command before, but a commander was a commander.

    "Sir. Mister President, I have strong reason to believe we have a Fallen Angel situation in progress somewhere near the Pacific North West." There was a small pause. Stewarts thoughts raced. Self-doubt, ever the real enemy of a military officer suddenly plagued him. Were they laughing at me? Had one of the crackpot agencies stuck its head up at the wrong moment only to be bitten off by PG Robinson?

    "I do trust you are going to explain what that is son, and why it is relevant to our current situation?"




    "How much longer will we wait here?" Starscream was not the most patient Decepticon ever to emerge from template. Megatron targeted Starscream with a stare, but said nothing. Starscream's impatience wilted away under Megatron’s gaze.

    "Had you fielded a full squadron as requested our situation would be different Starscream. I would not test my patience further."

    The band of Decepticons had gathered in a lonely spot in a sandy region near devoid of the fluids that covered so much of this planet. There was no cover for miles, but visibility was excellent. Nothing could approach them or even monitor them without being spotted. Megatron was almost daring, and in fact hoping the Autobots would pursue. However Megatron suspected the weaklings were tending their wounds and repairing Optimus Prime, ever fearful to take any initiative without him.

    "Where is Thundercracker? Did we abandon him to a band of six Autobots?" Starscream would not let up. The intelligence to be a true leader was not present in Starscream. A useful tactical commander, he would never understand either strategy, or even his own limitations. And he was uniquely annoying. "Soundwave, just how many Autobots were there?"

    "Soundwave is busy, ignore that command." Soundwave was motionless, using all his run time to try and translate some of the electronic garble flying around in the airwaves. Megatron moved over to Starscream. To his credit Starscream did not back off. A lesson was in order though. He grabbed Starscream roughly by the neck with his right gauntlet and hefted him off the ground, while thrusting the huge cannon into the whining aviators face.

    "Starscream I am warning you, do not question my commands. Not now, not ever." Staring down the barrel Megatron was sure Starscream would see the activator crystals glowing. Sure enough the grey and red Decepticon started squirming.

    "Megatron, I..."

    "ENOUGH!" Megatron roared directly into Starscream face and fired, shifting aim at the last moment away from Starscream and picking Laserbeak out of the sky behind Starscream. The small red avian fell from the sky. Megatron dropped his gun arm away and leaned in closer, lowering the volume of his voice.

    "Laserbeak let me down, running from battle, precipitating our withdrawal through his own cowardice. He will either learn courage, or learn the consequence of not being courageous. If Laserbeak does what I ask him because he is more afraid of me than the Autobots, then that suits my purpose. I do hope you understand Starscream." Megatron released his hold on Starscream. Starscream gingerly rubbed his face plate and a singe on the side of his air intake scoop, his features turning thoughtful the moment Megatron turned towards Soundwave.

    "Soundwave, what progress?"

    "Insufficient usable data available Megatron. Data is encrypted in addition to translation issues. We need to capture an alien to assist or capture relevant language learning documentation."

    "Analysis of technology? Are they a threat to us?"

    "Technology is comparatively primitive. Numerically vastly superior. We could be overcome. Weapons not in evidence. Underground facilities in vicinity. Ambient radioactivity suggests nuclear technology."

    "Are they a space faring race?"

    "Low probability. No orbiting facilities detected larger than communications relays. Hold." There was a pause. "Approaching vehicles. Airborne. Direct vector to this position. High probability hostile. Ravage, defensive posture."

    The black Panther like Decepticon, which had not been comfortable in the exposed surroundings and had been hiding in Soundwaves shadow sprang up, and moved into an open space, spread its four legs, elevated its feline like head while a pair of missile launchers on its flanks followed Ravages head as it traversed the sky searching for the approaching objects. Ravage tensed and made a low growl. It had the targets locked.

    "Hold your fire. I want to see if they are a threat to us. Decepticons, disperse. Starscream, Skywarp, Buzzsaw, prepare to intercept. And Starscream." Starscream paused in getting ready to take flight and turned towards Megatron. "Do not kill these creatures unless you have to. It may be possible to turn these aliens against the Autobots. Caution is better served until we gather more data."

    "Yes Megatron," acknowledged Starscream and moved over to where Skywarp had been look for possible take off and landing sites. "Skywarp, a real leader is not cautious, a real leader is bold. The day may yet come when the Decepticons may need more boldness than Megatron is prepared to offer." Skywarp looked sideways at Starscream with a look on his face that seemed to suggest Starscream had given him rather too much to think about. Starscream had himself much to think about. His glorious squadron of Seekers had been reduced to a single foot soldier. And Skywarp too. At least while Thundercracker could not make a decision if a vibroaxe was suspended over his head at least they could hold a conversation and understand commands. Skywarp was a challenge to lead at times. The two aerial warriors stood poised, alongside their smaller colleague, ready for Megatrons command.



    "Still no response sir."

    "Mister President I see no alternative, those vehicles are in a very sensitive military location."

    "Launch commit then General." The voice, delivered in an only slightly snappy New England accent that was instantly familiar, loved and hated in equal parts globally, it was unquestionably President Patrick G. Robinson. "You were saying about a fouled angel?" Stewart knew that President Robinson had not forgotten the phrase Fallen Angel but was affecting an air of superiority which was only slightly forced.

    "Sir this is an extremely sensitive and delicate subject..."

    "Everyone here is extremely sensitive and delicate."

    "Yes Mister President. I have reason to believe your situation involves Extra-Terrestrials. I would urge you to recall the fighters sir."

    "An interesting hypothesis General, tell me about your theory."

    "Mister President, have you received a collection of images from NORAD?"

    "I have them here Mister President," said an unfamiliar female voice.

    "Why haven't I seen them Ms de Cesaris?" That made the new voice Michaela de Cesaris, the National Security Advisor, the Presidents senior advisor on security matters, more trusted than General Pickett.

    "They were considered inflammatory and unconfirmed," said de Cesaris, sounding uncomfortable, in so far the phone system could translate her vocal inflections.

    "Sir could you please abort the mission? The pilots are likely to be badly overmatched," continued Stewart.

    "As the General said it's a sensitive location." The President was backing his Joint Chiefs Chairman. This was very dangerous territory for a junior flag officer to counter the opinion of his chief.

    "Why not send a ground unit? Its easier to negotiate with a tank than a strike fighter." Another unfamiliar female voice asked.

    "She does have a point General," Robinson added curiosly.

    "It comes down to proximity of units. The nearest ground unit is several hours away. The delay is not acceptable." General Pickett's voice brooked no argument, and certainly not from junior officers.

    "I have these photos; they look like F-15s to me."

    "Mister President, look at what they appear to be escorting." There was a pause while all considered the extremely large figures in super hero flying pose.

    "Does anyone have an alternative hypothesis?" asked President Robinson.

    "It could be a locally developed bipedal weapons platform. Aren't the Japanese looking at the technology?" This voice Stewart didn't recognise. There was no further comment.

    "Sir the fighters can see the targets." This was a background voice, only barely heard. It frustrated Stewart to be on the end of the phone like this. The large wall panel suddenly reconfigured and a data feed was patched into the map portion, which had zoomed in on a deserted part of Nevada, too close to the Air Forces Groom Lake and other unnamed secret facilities nearby to give the blue sky boys comfort. A red light flashed on a web cam mounted to the PC monitor by the phone which had risen out of the conference table. The White House Situation Room could now see him, but he couldn't see them.

    "Captain, patch me a direct feed from the fighters," asked Stewart to his nearest aide.

    "Almost there sir." A darkened quarter of the screen came to life plotting a group of unknowns and an approaching pair of F-15 Eagles. There was no unit designation which suggested the planes came from the Groom Lake facility where few items within are even allowed to be admitted that they exist.

    "What the..," a static filled voice trailed off.



    Major Steve Ashby could sympathise with the voice in his ear. A ten year veteran flying F-15 Eagles, interceptors and strike fighters both, this was something new. "Watch your interphone, Two. Targets appear to be building sized humanoids. Attack authority confirm." Ashby's final sentence was a question as much as a statement. Behind Ashby's admonishment of his wingman was his own concern, so much so he offered his commanders an additional opportunity to abort the attack. No countermand was forthcoming and suddenly it was time.

    "Attack confirmed. Mavericks armed. Fox Three. Fox Three." The noise of the missiles launching thundered and reverberated through the airframe.

    "Two, Fox Three, Fox Three."



    "Low powered laser firing. Possible targeting system. Missiles launched. Megatron and Soundwave targeted" Soundwave had his concussion blaster out but was using his shoulder mounted missile launcher and fired four small missiles that raced out to greet the incoming missiles. There were four explosions as Soundwaves missiles triggered on proximity sensors, igniting the solid rocket fuel within the incoming Mavericks. The two aircraft screamed overhead racing away from the Decepticons.

    "Starscream, intercept," said Megatron. Starscream leapt into the air, Skywarp moments behind and both ignited engines in their legs, thrusting them skywards. Starscreams head hinged forward toward his chest. His arms rotated backwards into a cavity that appeared as a nosecone appeared from Starscreams back and formed into a nose and cockpit structure ahead of the long shoulder projections Starscream had acquired after being templated by the Autobot vessel. Wings and aerilons rotated and tucked flush with Starscreams torso and legs which straightened and shortened. Where once a building sized robot had been, now thrusting skywards, was a grey and red aircraft, its shape, size and form mimicking the F-15 Eagles attacking the Decepticons. Beside him, copied in black was another imitation F-15 as Skywarp followed the lead of his squadron commander.

    "And Starscream, leave both alive, and bring one back here for interrogation." Starscream burned with the desire to slaughter the strange flying creatures, and now would be forced to change strategy.

    "Starscream, be advised. Flying devices are just vehicles. Operator is in forward part of machine and will be made of different materials to rest of craft." Soundwave's analysis grated, sounding as much an instruction as advice. Starscream liked to run his squadron his way. Although, Skywarp and the presence of Soundwave's minions Buzzsaw and Laserbeak hardly constituted a squadron. On Cybertron, as long as he got results, Starscream had complete autonomy in running his squad. Already he was resenting the close involvement Megatron was having. His plans however had called for him to be close to Megatron, and Megatron had never before been so isolated from his support structure. Starscream would have to bide his time, and wait for the opportunity. Starscream stood on his thrusters, rapidly chasing down the two aircraft.




    Ashby led his wingman down towards the desert floor once passing over the target when the targeting radar notice two of the ground targets were accelerating rapidly but not directly towards them.

    "Bronco lead you have picked up pursuit. Two bogeys at angels five and climbing.... no descending now," the semi-distant voice of his controller aboard the E-3 Sentry that had picked them up and was acting as their eyes and ears. OK, they climbed to get a speed advantage; they would probably be going for a strafing pass.

    "Two you stay right on my rudder." Ashby's wingman just clicked his microphone button twice to acknowledge, not trusting his voice to speak. Ashby tightened his turn unaware the Decepticons triggered a brief burst of cannon fire at that moment. The turn had saved him for the moment, but Decepticons do not fly like aircraft.

    "I'm hit, EJECT! EJECT!" suddenly Ashby's wingman was punching through the canopy of his Eagle and climbing into the sky on his ejector seats rocket, just as the Eagle itself dissolved into a ball of fire. His pursuit paid no attention and continued to close. Ashby dived to the desert floor and pushed the throttles, heading for the hills. He had gotten a look at the bogeys, they were Eagles pursuing him. Why would an F-15 shoot up another F-15? It made no sense.

    Suddenly, much faster than they should have been the two F-15s were on each side of him. He looked left, that F-15 was black with silver and mauve highlights and a huge purple symbol on the wing. A black Eagle? Then Ashby noticed the cockpit was empty. There was no pilot! He looked right to the other F-15, and reality slid to a screeching halt.

    An enormous arm had emerged from the fuselage the grey F-15, ending in a huge blue gauntlet, reaching for his fighter. The rest of the grey eagle was unfolding before his eyes. When a gigantic black helmeted head emerged with two glowing yellow eyes, Ashby panicked and grabbed his overhead ejection handles without saying a word just as the great blue gauntlet grabbed and crushed his right wing. Then the huge push exploded underneath him pushing him harshly clear of the nightmare of the unfolding F-15 and away from his now dying F-15, which was tossed aside by the behemoth like a toy. His parachute burst open somewhere above him and suddenly his fall had become a blustery float towards the ground, away from the two strangely painted fighters, which looked like F-15s again. No arms or heads. Ashby started to doubt himself. Had he imagined it all?

    Something was flying towards him. The object grew in size and glinted with an orange tint. By the time he realised it wasn't an aircraft and was smaller, it was almost on him, and flying directly towards his chute. The black and gold... bird? It was far too large to be a bird, wasn't it? Grabbed the chute and with a jerk Ashby and his ejection seat, dragged unceremoniously across the sky. The buffeting was incredible and the first bashing against his head rest caused him the see stars. Ashby raised his hands to his face and tried the claw away his oxygen mask, succeeding just as the first wave of bilious vomit climbed up his throat. Black crowded in at the edges and one more thump against the headrest and the blackness reached out to claim him.



    "Bronco lead, Bronco two, please respond," the voice of the air controller aboard the E-3 Sentry continued to repeat the same message. "Bronco lead, Bronco two please respond." Stewart had cringed when Bronco two had screamed the ejection litany. Bronco lead had not said another thing. Stewart placed a hand over his receiver and turned towards one of his aides.

    "Captain, continue to monitor this frequency please in case there is a response." Background noise started to filter through on the earphone of the receiver.

    "General Stewart, I would like to hear your thoughts at this time." It was the unmistakable tones of President Robinson.

    "Mister President, there is a protocol for this, which I am not aware has ever been used. Aggressive monitoring sir. We keep close tabs on them for the moment, close enough that it is obvious to them," for the moment Stewart was going to skirt around using the words 'aliens' or 'extra-terrestrials' or anything similar. Hollywood had done too good a job of creating an unrealistic aura for the concept. "We would also ask to be lead agency in continuing agency in all facets of this situation."

    "This is an Air Force operation on Air Force facilities with Air Force casualties. The Air Force will..."

    "General Alexander, please." Pickett's voice reached out to quell the sudden outburst from the Air Force Chief of Staff. "General Stewart's agency has expertise the Air Force does not have to hand."

    "I am sure General Stewart won't mind co-operating fully with the Air Force in the interests of all." This was the softer tones of the President.

    "Yes Sir," responded Stewart. "There are of course wider issues. These beings are rather large and not easily concealed. There are those who would advocate a nuclear solution. Do we know if such weapons will incapacitate them, and how will their fellows react when we attack them? Do we know how many of them there are?" Stewart paused before his next point, because for those in the room not wearing uniforms, this would be the most terrifying point of all.

    "And Mister President, at some point the public will find out."
     
  10. Laser_Optimus

    Laser_Optimus Your opinion was noted. Now get lost. TFW2005 Supporter

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    I'd been reading this over at the Allspark. I hadn't checked it in awhile though since you hadn't updated it in awhile. Last chapter I remember reading was the one where Jetfire was attempting to chase down Shockwave and Shockwave shot down a passenger jet.

    Have you gone further than that yet and will you be posting all that here soon? I like your stuff and think that both you and Petey's takes on this are excellent.
     
  11. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    Indeed, the Axalon has arrived in Earth orbit and Starscream has decided he wants it. The battle above the Earth has begun.
     
  12. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Six - Consolidation --

    Ratchet reviewed the last local day. An hour after the battle Ratchet gathered those he could. Prowl was unconscious again, having acquired wounds in the fight and was being cared for by Teletran's automated repair androids. In addition to the sprightly Cliffjumper, was the source of the missile attack that had spooked Megatron into retreating, and Ratchet could not have hoped for anyone better than Wheeljack to have at his side. Wheeljack had not been in good shape but had nonetheless travelled from his position near the bridge all the way down to the hold to fire those crucial missiles. The strange flesh based indigenous life form had fled the moment the battle had started and Ratchet couldn't blame it. This left seventeen Autobots to carefully revive. There were three casualties. Amazingly Jazz had escaped harm despite his proximity to the battle. Prowl, while unconscious rather than comatose, would take longer to get back on line while his wounds were tended. The first casualty though, was not of their ilk. Thundercracker had been shifted to a more secure location while Cliffjumper was outside the Ark, and Wheeljack now had enough command of Teletran's systems that the automated androids were, for the moment, ignoring the Decepticon.

    And Optimus Prime was headless.

    Autobot leadership would now be sorely tested. Both Prime and his deputy were incapacitated. Theoretically Jetfire was now the ranking Autobot warrior, but Jetfire was not a leader, and had no command experience. In an environment with more command oversight Jetfire could take command, but this world was isolated and the supervision Jetfire might have needed was not available. This left Jazz and Wheeljack as the ranking officers. Wheeljack was the mission's engineer, better suited to advise than lead. Jazz, as an operations specialist would take command until Prowl could return to active duty. But Jazz was a maverick personality, which might point to a more aggressive stance than prudence might normally allow. In a normal situation Jazz would plan an operation on the assumption it would go ahead and let Prime decide on the larger ramifications. That safety net was gone. All this worried Ratchet, but Wheeljack was commander for the moment and alternative options, foremost among them being the more cautious Wheeljack taking command, would not be considered. First priority had been to bring Jazz back on line and develop plans from there. Wheeljack speculated that Trailbreaker would be next and should be prepared on the basis of his experience with defensive fortification.

    After a second search for Prime's head nearby the Ark wreckage proved fruitless, thoughts of their commander were put aside. Energon was still being collected, slowly, and the Decepticons had taken what had built up since landfall. With Jazz online and Trailbreaker recovering, Jazz convened a meeting.

    "Well Autobots what have we learned? Ratchet?" Jazz, in his new form was stood about ten metres tall, with large white panels, with blue and red trim lines, bulbously forming armour over black limbs. A prominent breast plate, again in the white with blue/red trim, jutted forward from a black torso. The head was black, nobly and angular with a silver face and blue wrap around vision plate. Ratchet had a prepared answer for what he thought Jazz would lead with.

    "Everyone within the Ark is, or will, recover just fine. There are six of us online, including Prowl, four fit for active duty, with Trailbreaker fit by the end of the local day. As much as we would like to start bringing back more of us, I will put a halt to that for the moment. We need to consolidate energon supplies just for the moment until we can effectively increase energon generation. Just two casualties from the battle and landfall, and that is where it hurts most, Optimus Prime and Prowl. Prowls injuries are not serious, but rehabilitation will not be fast. Jazz you will need to be thinking about leadership for the short term."

    "And Prime?" Jazz voiced what everybody needed to know. Again Ratchet had a prepared answer.

    "I do not know. His body is fine and there has been no death trauma, but beyond that. I am not receiving current telemetry but there is no reason to believe he is dead. I think we have to be prepared for the concept that the Decepticons have him." Ratchet carefully watched reactions. Cliffjumper did not disappoint.

    "Then lets go get him," the small Autobot stood, fists clenched. Cliffjumper, smaller than the others present, and the only member of his squad on line, Cliffjumper was a vivid bright red with a bulbous torso with black legs over large red feet. Short black arms with two large round objects mounted on the outside of each arm. A large red helmet over a black head with two horns completed the look. Jazz looked unhappy. Wheeljack was fine, but he already knew what Ratchet knew. But so had Cliffjumper. Trailbreaker looked slumped. It might have been depression, or it might just have been his semi-dormant condition. Health telemetry from the black Autobot was inconsistent.

    "There are not enough of us to attempt that job," said Trailbreaker. Trailbreaker looked uncomfortably top heavy, a large black torso with slightly spindly red legs. His arms looked as oversized as his torso and awkward. He brightened suddenly as if finding something. "I would be curious to see what kind of engineering creation Megatron would turn you into if you tried."

    "But Prime..." started Cliffjumper hotly.

    "We will not forget Prime Cliffjumper. We have to get ourselves in fighting shape and before we can attack anyone. Anything else Ratchet?"

    "A few things. Teletran is down, but that's more Wheeljack's department." Wheeljack nodded his head forward slightly.

    "Sorry Jazz, no time estimate, Teletran will be back when its fixed," put in Wheeljack. Ratchet paused. He had some large thoughts and wanted to share them. Reactions were sure to be mixed.

    "You will no doubt have noticed we have been templated. No-one seems to be impaired by their new shapes but we'll have to wait on that one. That does not concern me as much as there was something on this world to template from. When we arrived on this world it was pre-intelligence and electronically dead. Now there are vehicles to template. Someone built these vehicles. I encountered a small local life form but it seems unlikely that such a species could create vehicles. I think we have to think about that we have been here for some time. Possibly a long time. And there may be someone other than Decepticons who will not like our presence here." There was a long pause as the others digested these new thoughts. Predictably, Jazz, ever the operational thinker, had quickly analysed what was needed now and what could be dealt with later.

    "That does not matter yet Ratchet. Home and the war will have to wait. What is our defensive posture?" There was a pause. "Trailbreaker?" Trailbreaker was not on the game, that was plain enough to Ratchet. He would have a word after the meeting.

    "Sorry. Systems aren't quite working right. Wheeljack, do we have any heavy guns?"

    "Most of the Ark's weapons were destroyed during landing, those that were not, can not be brought to bear in any meaningful direction. Maybe some of the aft guns can be made to work, but I am busy with Teletran."

    "Then we are down to personal weapons," sighed Trailbreaker. "Hand guns and missile launchers. Missiles will be of most importance, for stand off defence. Jazz, you and Wheeljack can provide three launders, but we need more. You really need Prowl for something like this not a guzzler like me."

    "We do not have Prowl," started Ratchet testily.

    "You know the job Trailbreaker; you know systems, weapons and strategy. You can do it," finished Jazz.

    "Just give me a pair of launchers. I will protect you Trailbreaker."

    "Thanks Cliffjumper I feel so much better," replied Trailbreaker sardonically. "I know you will want to revive the engineering types first but we will need warriors if Megatron comes back or if any third parties come sniffing. If I can not have Prowl, I want Bluestreak, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker or Mirage. We also need Jetfire so someone can reconnoitre the area at a safe speed. I am going to make a stockpile of all guns not in direct use, so we can project more firepower with fewer numbers. I do not want anyone walking around without at least one heavy rifle. You too Ratchet."

    "Anything else?"

    "Yes, something Ratchet alluded to. If there is another species on this planet, they may be armed. They may have much higher technology than us and we may have no defence against that. Megatron may be finding that out now. Does not that make you smile? I do not think it is likely though. They may be much lower than us with weaponry, but there may be a lot of them. From a brief scan there is a near saturation of signals from nearby settlements and further a field. I think there may be a settlement not far from here. There is also a moral issue here. If they have little defence against us, and they attack anyway, can we hit back, and likely slaughter them?"

    "Yes." said Cliffjumper, with a look on his face that defied anyone to argue. There was a brief uncomfortable silence.

    "Well, lets get to work..."

    "There is still one more issue," said Ratchet. "We have a prisoner." This was news to all bar Wheeljack. Ratchet had put the wounded Thundercracker into medical stasis in the pod next to Prowl, but had not activated the auto repair droids. Unless Thundercrackers onboard repair systems were much more efficient than anyone he had examined, it would contain the Decepticon for now.

    "Who?" typically Jazz was the first to recover.

    "Where is he?" Cliffjumper suddenly had a hand gun in one fist; the other was clenching and unclenching. The short red Autobot was standing, a near fanatical gleam in his eyes.

    "Cliffjumper sit down, now!" there was an edge in Jazz voice completely unfamiliar to all. With a hint of exasperation and a touch of desperation, as if he did not know what he could do if Cliffjumper persisted.

    "Those scraggers did in Prime!"

    "We do not know if he is dead. You heard Ratchet, he thinks Optimus is alive. We will need this Decepticon to find out where they are," said Jazz forcefully. There was a long moment. Cliffjumper took a step towards the passageway, and Jazz stood. Wheeljack stood too and moved to cover the other side of the large console table they were all seated around. A panel opened in Cliffjumper's thigh and the gun was holstered. The moment passed and all sat once more, although Wheeljack now sat closer to the door.

    "It is Thundercracker. One of Starscream's Seekers."

    "I saw Starscream during the battle and it must have been Skywarp who got into the antechamber and compromised Prowl's defensive position," added Wheeljack. "If all the Seekers are here that is quite a potent unit."

    "We can not defend against a combat squadron with just five of us. We need Bluestreak and Jetfire immediately," said Trailbreaker suddenly, jerking out of his apparent lethargy.

    "Do not panic," Jazz felt the need to impose himself over the conversation and the others fell silent, accustomed to stopping for Optimus Prime's commands. "We do not know it is all of the Seekers. I did not see Cyclonus. Wheeljack can we sustain one more Autobot?"

    "As long as we do not have to do any fighting."

    "Wheeljack that will not be good enough. We can not guarantee that Megatron will not come back to try and finish us off. Ratchet I want you to bring back Sideswipe. Also I want you and Wheeljack looking for ways to step up energon production. You can have Cliffjumper for help. Wheeljack, continue repairing Teletran and you can have my help there. Trailbreaker, stockpile weapons and start looking at some external defensive positions."

    "We need someone to keep look out," said Trailbreaker. "I can do that. It will help conserve energon too if I am not moving around."

    "No, we may need access to a greater arsenal sooner rather than later. Cliffjumper, you are the look out until Sideswipe is ready. Take whatever steps neccesary to maintain cover. Sorry Ratchet you are on your own. Anything else? Right, firewall the burners." The last line cheered Ratchet slightly. Underneath all the pressure, Jazz was still Jazz. Cliffjumper and Trailbreaker left, with Wheeljack after a short pause looking at Jazz for any subtle instructions, which there were none.

    "Anything you need to talk about?" Jazz seemed to ignore Ratchets query for a long moment.

    "I do not think I will be able to do this for very long. I am a tactics type of Autobot. I respond to situations and make plans on a small scale."

    "Lean on Trailbreaker for some long range thinking."

    "Trailbreakers outlook is defensive. Good for covering bases, but he is too negative in his current frame of mind. He looks like he is suffering from depression. There is no vision. If the Decepticons come we might be able to hold our own, but all we are doing is fortifying. We need to be thinking of getting home. We need to be thinking about what Megatron might do here on this planet, to this other race here, and what he is doing right now. We need Prime. We need Prowl." Jazz paused for a moment. Ratchet decided not to interject with Jazz thought processes. Only a few days ago, relatively, Ratchet and Jazz would have been trading friendly barbs like a pair of hostile capital ships exchanging broadsides. Now the dynamic was different. Jazz was his commander and deserved his respect. "Get Trailbreaker in to medical and conduct a diagnostic on him." That seemed like a good idea. If nothing else to check if there was nothing else wrong with him, and to help carry Sideswipe around.

    "Stars up Jazz," said Ratchet with a traditional phrase of good cheer and slapped Jazz midriff armour with an open gauntlet and stepped out of the conference room. His hopes of triggering Jazz's familiar cheery personality were dashed when the black face remained thoughtfully dormant, neither acknowledging or flinching. That got Ratchet worrying again.



    COMING SOON - Somedays your just sittin' watching the NASCAW on da teev when yer Jeep starts talking to yer. Its pretty distressing. While yer Paw and yer Bro just get all 'cited you, well... It's Buster's dilemma in WHAT EVER HAPPENNED TO OPTIMUS PRIME?
     
  13. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Seven - What Ever Happened To Optimus Prime? --

    "Buster if you don't spit out what you've been choking on, you face is going to turn into that lemon you're trying to swallow."

    Buster had returned home from his interstate trip earlier than his family expected considering relief operations were still ongoing. The Witwicky household was a large single story affair in the suburbs of Salem. Buster lived with his father and younger brother in the family home of their youth.

    Buster's mother had left some years ago and inflicted a not very pretty divorce upon the family that Buster resented for having been dragged through family courts because he and his brother were still under aged at the time. His father recovered and he still owned the home and his business, an automobile performance and repair shop, which did quite well for itself and had a loyal group of customers amongst the Oregon street racing community.

    The speaker, Spiro "Sparkplug" Witwicky was a stocky, although far from short, man, to which the years had added weight, and while not appearing overly fat, Sparkplug's frame carried just over 100 kilos and he had arms which could get rusty bolts off an ill cared for Chevy block or clear a bar on Saturday night if provoked. These days he did much more of the former than the latter. Sparkplug, son of mixed European immigrants was a war baby who got to experience the sixties as they were meant to be experienced, at least until Buster had been born. After being involved briefly in the Trans-Am pony car racing community that thrived on the West Coast he moved his young family north as racing faded in the 70's and as California started decaying into a tourist venue with an extremely thin veneer wallpapered badly over a seedy underbelly. Buster's Mother had missed the protected Californian lifestyle that marriage to Sparkplug had offered and eventually that grew into resentment, triggering the break-up.

    Sparkplug obviously expected some kind of reply the way he was looking at Buster, maybe even a conversation starter into the source of Buster's concern. But how did you explain what he had seen in the Cascades?

    "I'm still figuring out what I saw Dad." That seemed to mollify Sparkplug a bit, but to Spike it increased his interest.

    "Really bro? 'Fess up, what did you see up there that spooked ya?" No longer the self-interested young teen, Spike was growing up rapidly. Brown haired to Buster's blonde, he would one day become the spitting image of Sparkplug. But a tale of disaster and nature induced violence would still enliven a dull Sunday afternoon late lunch. The three had been sitting down with sandwiches and beers, Spike was underage but nobody seemed to care, watching the latest NASCAR race. Sparkplug still had a lot of racing contacts and some of his former colleagues and rivals had risen to the top of the sport.

    "Check your Jeep Wrangler now for just $12,990"

    All three men stopped any conversation to look at the television. The sentence it had uttered. There had been no commercial. NASCARs continued to whiz around the speedbowl at Phoenix. The commentators continuing to call the subtleties of drafting and the action in the pits as cars started to run short of fuel and dived towards the pits.

    "Check your Jeep Wrangler now for just $12,990"

    Again, in a much louder voice, the sentence burst through the coverage of the race. What made it stranger was there were two voices. 'Check your' was harshly electronic. Like a bad villain from a B Grade science-fiction film Spike decided. But the rest of the sentence was uttered in the smooth delivery of a radio advertisement. Buster looked slightly shaken.

    "Check your Jeep Wrangler now for just $12,990"

    "There's something wrong with the damn television again," grumbled Sparkplug. An engine fired up in the background, near the house. A Jeep engine. Spike was on his feet heading for the garage, with Buster on his heels. Light peeked out underneath the door when Spike knew the garage lights were off. Spike got to the door first and ripped it open, expecting to see Buster's Jeep backing up the drive with a thief at the wheel. But the Jeep sat there quivering, engine revving with headlights flicking on and off intermittently, spookily picking out highlights off the back wall of the garage off the racks of tools, Busters bicycle and the front half of Spike's partially restored sports car.

    The two brothers just stood in the doorway, not wanting to take another step forward. Buster reached into his right shorts pocket and pulled out his car keys and stared at them stupidly. Sparkplug arrived behind them and looked over Buster's shoulder, before gently pushing past Buster, forcing Spike into the garage itself. Sparkplug reached for the light switch and the overhead fluorescents flickered on. Suddenly with more light, the garage seemed more familiar and less frightening and the three men stepped properly into the garage. Beyond the Jeep sat the reassuring bulk of Sparkplug's work Dodge pick-up with the bare-metal look of Spike's Datsun suddenly looking like a half finished car again. But the Jeep continued to rev until Sparkplug put a hand on the drivers door handle. The sudden quiet seemed profound. It took a few moments for background noise to filter back in with the tinking of the cooling engine, and the semi-distant noise of Chris Economaki on the television creeping into their hearing.

    "What the hell..."

    "Greetings!" Spike's exclamation was suddenly cut in by a voice thundering from the Jeeps tinny radio speakers, with a slight echo coming from the living room television behind them.

    "Ummm huh-hi," stammered Buster at his own Jeep.

    "Now look here," started Sparkplug.

    "I need your help." As if a talking car wasn't enough, its voice was the audio equivalent of a ransom note, snatches of other peoples voices, glued together haphazardly, as if the Jeep wouldn't trust its own voice.

    "This is a trick. The Benson's have built an FM bug. Vance is dead when I catch him." Spike was looking for reasonable explanations. It didn't explain the remote control engine and all three of them knew it.

    "Let's pop the hood and have a look." The sentence, delivered in a Southern drawl came out from one voice. Nobody moved.

    "Buster."

    "OK Dad." Buster moved to the front of the Wrangler and fiddled for the latch. The bonnet came up and Buster put the stay in position to hold it up.

    Then he looked at the engine, and gasped. Sparkplug and Spike crowded forward to look. There in the engine bay on the side of the block, bulging outwards was a head. It wasn't human. Made of blue and grey metal it was the head of a sci-fi robot.

    Not unlike the robotic heads he had seen back in the mountains. Two blue eyes blazed beneath a blue peaked brim and above a blank grey face. There was no mouth as such and a pair of antennae projected roughly from the ears. It filled most of the engine bay and had pushed the engine aside. But not brokenly, as all the engines plumbing was still routed correctly and no oil or water was venting onto the floor.

    "Buster, what kind of joke is this?"

    "I need your help."

    "Who are you? How did you get in there?" Spike wanted to know everything. He could see all kinds of potential for whatever invention this 'engine-head' represented.

    "My name is Optimus Prime. Our... my vessel crash landed back near a mountain. One of you was there and saw the crash site." The language sounded as though it was being forced, as though by someone unfamiliar with the terminology.

    "Buster?" Both Sparkplug and Spike had recovered from the initial shock, but Buster was another matter. He sat down on the step from the garage door to the house and put his head in his hands.

    "I still don't know what I saw. But there was some kind of underground facility in one of the mountains. There were these armoured suits walking around, with heads like that," Buster pointed at the Jeep and its obscene bulge in the engine bay. "There were metal Eagles as well. One of them dropped a bomb or something at me."

    "My head was cut from my body and Buzzsaw tried to carry me off when they retreated," said Prime, continuing to speak through the Jeeps speakers. "One of the Autobots fired at Buzzsaw and he dropped my head near you where I bonded with you, your car, to be alive."

    "What's an Autobot?" asked Spike.

    "I am an Autobot," said Prime simply. "I need your help to get back to my fellows and get my body back. Can you help me?" While the conversation had progressed, Sparkplug had been moving slowly towards the engine bay.

    "We'll get back to you," said Sparkplug, and ripped the leads off the battery. As Sparkplug hoped the blue eyes went dark and the conversation ceased. "Buster we need to have a long talk, but first, Spike get my tool belt from the truck. I want to have a closer look at this."

    Buster continued to sit and stare at nothing while his father and brother peered closer into the Jeeps engine bay. Buster was aware of their excited commentary of their new discovery, but Buster himself took no part, despite verbal prodding from his father. Buster knew tonight he would not be able to close his eyes without seeing those two behemoths, blue and white, fighting, towering above him.


    COMING SOON - Your having a dream. This morning you were flying a plane. You got out of the place because there was a really cute little bird you just had to capture and stick in a cage so you could admire its beauty and its song. But the bird turned out to be bigger than you. And its song seems to ask a lit of nasty questions... and elsewhere, how do you talk to someone the size of a building? Do you need a loud hailer? The US Army get to test out a protocol caled FIRST CONTACT.
     
  14. Laser_Optimus

    Laser_Optimus Your opinion was noted. Now get lost. TFW2005 Supporter

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    Well, whenever I get a chance I'll have to check it out. Good work by the way. :thumb 
     
  15. Throwback

    Throwback Well-Known Member

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    See you at the top.

    G1 love.
     
  16. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Eight - First Contact --

    Megatron looked out over the patch of open desert. A never ending vista of sand interspersed with the occasional rock formation. It was somewhat less than inspiring and nothing like the smoke rimmed industrial complexes he knew so well. This was a foreign environment with its own set of rules. His kind of urban warfare would not work here. Tactics would have to be rethought.

    When they had arrived here it had been an alien environment, but now, somehow it was no longer alien, it was foreign, inhabited, populated and armed. When had this race of aliens settled this world and how had they grown so numerous so quickly?

    However, it was a planet still young, and by the view before him, still under-developed. This place may have possibilities. Resources without recycling was a tantalising prospect all by itself. However a lack of certain kinds of resources could be seriously debilitating.

    "Soundwave, do you have any information on how these whoo-moons generate power?" Soundwave had created a link to some primitive computer driven information networks, and now having broken the basic barriers into the local language, and its computer operating systems, was plundering its databases.

    "Electricity, direct supply. Storage of energy extremely primitive, no methods of creating energon. Methods of power generation vary. Majority is turbine driven. Investigation continuing."

    "Megatron, small aircraft approaching." Frenzy was a kilometre away from the rest of the group, in the direction Soundwave estimated contained below ground facilities.

    "Someone is coming to negotiate with us Starscream. There is an opportunity here for us to be given all we need without wasting a single drop of Energon."


    "Human." Ashby jarred awake suddenly as the voice boomed down at him. A brief glimpse of bright light and Ashby clamped his eyelids shut again. The harsh desert sun continued to burn down, gently roasting his skin and trying to burn its way through his eyelids. The pilots eyes blinked into focus as a darkened shape moved and filled the world in front of him. Eyes still adjusting, the image was a large jagged shadow, moving in a very un-human manner. Weren't talking animals supposed to be small, cute and cuddly?

    "Pay attention human." Eventually Ashby distinguished an immense black beak was looking down at him with bright yellow eyes. But it was a beak full of sharp angles and metallic plates, like a robotic impersonation of a bird. The voice, amplified though it was, held a quiet menace to it. It seemed jarringly inappropriate.

    "You will answer my questions, and you will do so in a timely manner or I shall discover how you were assembled." Ashby pushed back along the hard packed sand under his hands, eyes fully on the great black and red metal bird that waddled after him. Ashby suddenly found something solid behind his back. There was a cool press of metal against his back and something moved into his peripheral vision on the right.

    Ashby's brain registered the vague shape of the head of a big cat and the pilot screamed a wordless shout and froze. Calming his panic the features resolved itself as a large, a very large black metal panther, twice the size of any panther he had seen before. Ashby pushed away to his left, continuing to watch the Eagle and the Panther that matched his pace. Again Ashby bumped against something metallic. A huge metal hand grabbed his right shoulder and hauled him to his feet.

    Ashby's head throbbed from dehydration and the remnants of the exertion that the ejection had placed on his body, and he could feel his grasp on reality slipping.

    "What weapons would you use against those not of your world? What weapons could you use?" Ashby's head cleared suddenly. This was something he could understand. He was being interrogated.

    "I am Major Stephen Ashby, serial number 457831A, United States Air Force."

    "Are you planning on resisting my questioning human? Describe to me your weapons or we will damage you." There was a noise of compressed air and suddenly the Eagle had leapt onto the Panther's back. Two huge black gauntlets held him in place against something solidly metal while the great metal beak peered closer. Two great yellow eyes boring in on Ashby's skull, looking directly into the pilots brain, closer and closer, virtually touching his face. He jerked his helmet back and heard the thump of plastic against metal.

    "Muh-Major Stephen Ashby, 457831A, US Air Force." Part of Ashby's brain analysed what he said and was alarmed, having heard himself stammer. Ashby could see the moisture in his breath condensing on the squared off beak in front of him.

    "In the past I have found pain a remarkable lubricant for the purposes of gathering information. I proposed to test that theory again. Rumble, remove an arm, either will do." Panic suddenly filled Ashby's head. What were they doing? The hand holding his right shoulder shifted, moving to the left shoulder while the other hand grasped his arm just below the left wrist. The pain was small at first as the figure behind him took up the slack, and then it overwhelmed his mind. He could hear someone screaming, unaware it was Ashby himself.


    Laserbeak, quickly over the underpowered blast of Megatron’s fusion cannon, watched dispassionately as the strange soft creature writhed in torment. Dark red fluid gushed out from the exposed shoulder joint, staining the flimsy fabric based armour it wore and colouring the sand, which immediately soaked up the fluid. It seemed Laserbeak might have gone too far. How forgiving would Megatron be with this result? Laserbeak found himself obsessing with Megatron's Fusion Cannon.

    "The creature does not look healthy," commented Rumble unhelpfully, still holding the creatures left arm. The creature’s skin appeared to be lightening, and its screaming was subsiding, although it now appeared dazed and unresponsive.

    "Human. Shall I have Rumble remove another arm?" Laserbeak prodded the huddled and stained figure with his beak.

    "Go da hell," was a weak response. Soundwave's language translation files, which were only just better than functional, held no meaning for 'hell'. The human slumped into unconsciousness at that point. The flow of red fluid had slowed. As were the creatures easily monitorable internal organs. Plainly it was dying. These humans were considerably more fragile than their weapons suggested.

    "Can you tell me anything useful Laserbeak?" Megatron had been in conference with Starscream and Soundwave, planning, or more likely instructing next moves, but wanted to be kept appraised.

    "These humans are far more fragile than they appear or their armaments might suggest. We have killed it after just removing a limb," reported Laserbeak, aware that this was a pitifully small amount of information when he was already on Megatron’s bad side. The Decepticon interrogator thought about their guns and they flimsy armour they wore.

    "Some analysis," the avian added. "If they are this poor at armouring themselves against their own weapons, it would seem to suggest that in battle they may be prepared to suffer significant losses. They are probably able sustain attrition well beyond that we might find a disastrous defeat. If we can find another human we would be able to get more data." That at least might give Megatron something to think about.



    "Megatron, majority of turbine power generators in this area powered by steam. Steam generated by nuclear fission reactors."

    "Interesting. If they have fission reactors for power generation then they will have fission explosives," considered Megatron. "Fusion devices are only a small technological step from fission devices. We may have to be careful confronting these humans."

    "There will be no need for such care," scoffed Starscream. "They are puny, weak and can not fly unaided. Our smallest calibre projectile weapon is like artillery to them." Megatron just looked at Starscream for a moment but provided no further comment on the aviator’s assertion.



    The Sikorsky Super Stallion raced across the desert floor. The big heavy lift helicopter, looking not unlike a wheel-less bus with the corners rounded and a large triangle section cut from the back to make a loading ramp, and painted an conspicuous day-glo orange and white, its paintwork was designed to be seen, unlike most Super Stallions which were painted in various shades of dull camouflage greens, browns and greys.

    The Stallion had raced past Frenzy's outpost position without even noticing, the Decepticon continuing to look back in the direction the helicopter had come from, searching for follow up action if the aircraft was a decoy. Sitting back in the cabin amongst a small detachment of troops was an officer.

    Major Michael Yates sat with a battered looking laptop perched on his knees and a set of insulated headphones over his ears. Yates was young for a Major, or at least was younger in his features than his age might have suggested, tall and thin, verging on wiry after years of army fitness training as a field officer in infantry then seconded to intelligence with a semi-regular special forces training billet. His career had almost mirrored his superior, General Stewart.

    "Yates you know I trust you on this," said the voice in his headphones. "We are not negotiating with them at this stage. They will expect you to appear intimidated, and I want you to play up to that. Colonel Bourne and I are on the way to you, we're just boarding fast jets at Andrews AFB. I won't lie to you and say this is not potentially hazardous. The blue sky boys have lost contact with two jet jockeys, which seem to be related. Remember to keep breathing; I want you to be able to brief me on the results."

    "Sir."

    "Standard first contact rules of engagement Yates. Only if fired upon AND safety is threatened. Any questions?"

    "No sir."

    "We are on our way. Good luck." With a crackle the radio went dead. Yates unplugged the headset, shut down the computer; folded and stowed it into a pouch attached to the wall of the passenger compartment beside him and hung the headset on the hook provided. The big Stallion's flight profile was changing; speed was dropping and would shortly flare for landing. Yates turned to look out the hatch where a Vulcan mini-cannon would normally hang. Already the heads of the taller of the robots were out of easy sight above him. The big chopper was flaring now and dust was being whipped up as the helicopter landed. Yates withdrew his head reached over and grabbed another black painted insulated headset to talk to the flight crew.

    "Down OK?", asked Yates.

    "No problem Major." The pilot was a former squadron commander and outranked Yates. This was the sort of mission where experienced troops were like gold. Reactions may be slower, but the decisions would be sound, and more respectful of prolonged life. It was one of the strangle contradictions of military service, the longer you had served, the longer you wanted to live, although in this situation, the Lieutenant Colonel realised his life was in the hands of this young Major and the astonishing things arrayed outside the right side of his airframe. He was also distinctly uncomfortable with Yates request to shut down the helicopter completely once landed. Once the main rotor stopped turning, Yates donned a pair of slim dark sunglasses and nodded to the Lieutenant by his side. The detachment of Rangers formed up at the base of the Super Stallions boarding ramp on each side, forming an honour guard. It had been decided some exaggerated military formality might impress the 'foreigners.' Yates walked down the boarding ramp into the blazing heat of the Nevada desert.

    Yates looked upwards towards the humanoid heads of the creatures, hoping desperately one of them would not say 'take me to your leader.' One figure in polished chrome moved a step towards Yates, its step shaking the ground beneath his feet. The creature towered some forty feet above him, but when the voice first spoke, mercifully in English, the voice issued not from the head forty feet away, but from speakers hidden presumably near the creature’s immense feet.

    "What role are you here to perform?" There was superiority in the voice, arrogance based on the belief, Yates guessed, that the likes of Yates could not harm him.

    "To welcome you here to our planet, Earth and to our nation the United States of America and to serve as an initial point of contact between yourselves and our government, I..." Yates found himself spoken over.

    "See this hoomoon welcomes us Starscream? Is that not amusing? We have been here on this world far longer than you or your kind hoomoon. So you are a minor functionary and this is a delaying tactic. Are you bringing up some of your nuclear explosives to deploy against us? Would you pollute this region in a failed attempt to silence difficult questions it would be easier to hide away to an underground facility, like those just nearby perhaps?" Yates found himself on the back foot. The alien was incredibly well informed, how long had these things been watching humanity. Perhaps the alien only wanted to appear well informed. It was not his job to pump for information at this stage.

    "Not at all, we have negotiators on the way, negotiators which have the authority to make deals with you and communicate directly with our command structure."

    "And you do not." The response came much more like a command than a suggestion. "Since we have time to waste I suggest you allow some of my staff to reconnoitre the area?"

    "We would prefer you didn't do that, less you frighten our civilian population." The moment he said it Yates knew he had said too much.

    "Civilian? You have a large population of non-combatants?" This voice was different, higher pitched and whiny and came from a different 'robot' to the left who walked towards the first one, with the treads of a Dinosaur walking the earth. Predominately grey with red highlights, two large reversed wings sprouted from this one's back. Yates briefly wondered what they were for.

    "It is certainly significant to us," hedged Yates. The cat was out of the bag, no point in lying about it.

    "We have methods of disguising ourselves," said the first one. "Starscream, Skywarp, transform."

    The grey and red figure with the shrill voice, and a black one in the background who had not spoken both tipped forward and fell towards the ground. The grey one was falling towards Yates who found himself shrinking away and stepping backwards towards the Super Stallion. As the figure fell its arms straightened and rotated backward towards a cavity in its chest as a bulbous shape, followed by another conical shape rotated forward out of the things chest, forming a pointed nose. Two large surface area limbs rotated into place on the things back, forming large wings and suddenly a replica of a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle took form in front of him. Two of them, as Yates noticed the black one in the background. They could disguise themselves as vehicles. This was a frightening development.

    "That is most ingenious," Yates said eventually. The chrome figure provided no further commentary. Yates tried another gambit.

    "How should I present you to others?"

    "I am Megatron and we are Decepticons."

    "Just Megatron?"

    "I have yet to find an honorific in your language appropriate to my station." While Yates appreciated the effort this alien appeared to be making to talk down to him, the arrogance and patronizing tone could not be disguised. Megatron turned his back a walked away towards a blue robot as the two ersatz F-15s took to the skies, taking off without the need of a runway. Plainly this audience was at an end. Yates retreated towards the Super Stallion and the Rangers and settled in to wait for General Stewart, mentally preparing the report of mankind’s first encounter with another race.

    COMING SOON - There's something wierd, in your neighbourhood who ya gonna call? There's a headless Prime, stacked in the closet, who ya goona call? Oh hang on I've done a Ghostbusters gag already. Ummmm... I got one. Look up in the sky, the bit of sky that is actually a road, we'll call it Sky Street. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No bird... Oh it's a bug. And it's on a quest for the HOLY GRAIL.
     
  17. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Nine - Holy Grail --

    It had taken an hour to talk Jazz out of sending himself on the quest but now things looked ready to Trailbreaker.

    It has started with Cliffjumper's incessant complaints about Optimus Prime's condition. Every chance he got the aggressive Autobot would complain to whoever would listen, or even was simply present that they needed to mount a raid to get Optimus Prime back. Ratchet pointed out that occasionally, very occasionally, he would get flickers of health telemetry from Prime. Prime was in the vicinity, although not necessarily the immediate facility. The medic developed a theory that Prime was not actually with the Decepticons, who surely were blazing a trial of destruction somewhere else.

    Ratchet also then explained about the strange alien he had encountered during his fight with Thundercracker. At roughly the same time Wheeljack had cracked a connection into the local information web link as was happily hacking away at the local network and had come across a repository of images. Teletran still wasn't fully working, but most of the computers systems could be operated remotely. Suddenly caught up in the concept of an intelligence operative, Wheeljack had suspended repairs to Teletran and took over Teletrans systems directly, supervising the hacking into the humans network.

    It did not take much to distract Wheeljack from a repetitive mundane task such as his work on Teletran. Within a very short space of time he had a match of the image Ratchet had supplied. There was some local language attached, hopefully some of it would provide a location if a map could be sourced.

    A near exhausted probe Teletran had launched four years ago had been located in orbit and a image of the area surrounding the Ark as seen by the probe in orbit was acquired.

    Jazz fleshed out the basics of a special operations mission and found himself caught up in the thrill and the romance of the concept. Caught behind enemy lines, in an alien landscape with a complete language barrier to surpass. And no hope of refuelling. It wasn't until Wheeljack and Ratchet forcibly pointed it to him that Jazz could not go that the operation was discussed in full.

    With the ability to survive long periods with limited energon supplies quickly becoming the primary mission parameter it was obvious that another Autobot had to be awakened.

    So now with an energon tank pack attached to his chest, the ever cheery yellow figure of Goldbug stood ready to undertake the search for the strange alien who might lead them to Optimus Prime.

    Shorter even than Cliffjumper, Goldbug was just under 5 metres tall with large yellow rounded feet beneath slightly spindly black legs, a bulbous yellow torso and two short black arms with two wheels and tyres mounted on each. His head was similar to Cliffjumper with the slight Samurai look replaced by Viking influences with two curved horns jutting from the side of Goldbugs yellow and white head.

    Goldbug was not his usual effervescent self however. He uncomfortably shifted the heavy pack on his chest.

    "How do I find a map if I can't transform out of vehicle mode?"

    "I never said this was going to be easy," said Jazz. "Considering how much bigger we are, you might frighten the locals."

    "I thought Prime said this world was uninhabited."

    "We have a lot of questions Goldbug," said Ratchet. "We do not need any more."

    Trailbreaker stepped towards Goldbug and handed him a hand gun.

    "I already have a pistol Trailbreaker."

    "This is Mirage's spare pistol. He had the power output downgraded, for personal reasons I'm guessing. It should work to incapacitate these organic locals without harming them."

    "Are you sure about that?" Trailbreaker paused before answering. He was not sure. But would Goldbug hesitate to defend himself if he thought his only option was to kill them? What if he relied upon the weapon only to find it deadly?

    "No I am not. We have lacked subjects to test it."

    "I should hope so. Tell Prowl I hope he is well soon and I will bring him back a nice blue souvenir."

    "So long as it talks I will be very happy my friend," said Jazz with a smile and pantomimed a slap on his chest armour where the volatile energon pack sat uncomfortably.

    "Hey! Get back party droid. I will return soon. Wheeljack, Ratchet, TB, Sideswipe." Goldbug turned to each Autobot in turn. The engineer and the medic, incongruously carrying Bluestreak’s rifle, farewelled him warmly while the warrior merely nodded. "CJ I will bring you back a toy." Cliffjumper and Goldbug, long compatriots tapped their clenched right fists together in the warriors’ traditional greeting. Then Goldbugs legs tucked in, drawing his feet into his chest and his arms folded down to the ground and his head tucked forward into the chassis and the small yellow Volkswagen Beetle, with a slightly too large and laden roof rack, formed from Goldbugs shape to Cliffjumpers derisive laughter.

    "You look ridiculous Goldbug," said Cliffjumper. Trailbreaker actually noticed him happy for the first time since landfall.

    "Have you seen your Alt mode yet CJ?" asked Goldbug. Then the squat yellow shape was gone, bouncing down the track in the direction of local civilisation.

    "What did he mean by that?" asked the offended Cliffjumper. "I do not look that silly, do I?" Jazz, Wheeljack and Ratchet had already left, returned to the habitable portions of the Arks wreckage. Only Sideswipe and Trailbreaker were left, the tall red figure leaning languidly against what used to be one of the Ark's thrust vents.

    "Cliffjumper, you always look ridiculous." Sideswipe straightened and spun around, heading up the side of the hill, looking for a track towards the summit where he was to be stationed, leaving an indignant Cliffjumper to yell Cybertronian profanities at his back. Trailbreaker sighed and turned towards where the others had gone.


    COMING SOON - Have you ever gotten up in the morning and said to yourself, I wonder if I can save resources and lives by starting a war with my enemy, by getting someone else to fight them? Has this thought troubled, or amused, any current world leaders? Megatron's certainly thought of it. Made him laugh a bit. And we all love to hear Megs laugh. Its such a joyous sound. Next up MANIPULATIONS.
     
  18. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Ten - Manipulations --

    "Then he... it just dismissed you?" After racing West on an US Air Force VIP bizjet, Stewart and Colonel Bourne had been transferred into two seat training versions of Harrier jump jets to transit to the site. These British built fighters were owned by the Marine Corps and were the only craft faster than a helicopter that could get to the scene delivering passengers because of their unique VTOL capability. Right now the Harriers and their recently acquired escort were dropping speed. Stewart was mindful that another pair of fighters had disappeared in this immediate area only hours before.

    "Yes sir, the chrome chested one when you see them sir." Yates’ voice crackled through Stewarts headset.

    "Do you have any other names we can pass on to linguistics?"

    "The two jets were called Starscream and Skywarp sir. Starscream is the grey one." Stewart looked out the cockpit to his right where a black F-15 Eagle sat. There was a grey one off to the other side of Colonel Bourne's Harrier flying in the wingman position.

    "We've seen them. They're making our pilots nervous right now."

    "They seem to have rather dramatic names sir, it could be indicative of an egotistical or warlike nature," contributed Bourne. Bourne was breathing heavily, booming into his helmet mike. Bourne was a desk soldier and a poor flyer. Flying in the open canopy of a fast jet would have done nothing for Bournes neuroses. "The lack of rank names could be indicative," the last word was gasped and a cough was added after it. "Indicative of a lack of discipline. Perhaps a feudal or tribal like military structure. Or just as likely a guerrilla outfit."

    Stewart pondered that. Might the United States have to face its greatest fear, a technologically advanced terrorist? Even a technologically superior terrorist?

    "Approaching LZ General." This was the voice of the Marine Corps Major flying his aircraft. The craft slowed to almost a halt in mid-air and the two aircraft were immediately surrounded in dust, bringing back visions of younger years of spec-ops helicopter dust-offs in hostile or unknown territory. The stakes were higher now. Stewart was no longer a camouflage-painted Captain working to protect his nation’s current account deficit serving some far off political goal. This time he was representing the interests of the planet, without the safety net of government support.

    He had told his command structure and his Commander-in-Chief that they would be aggressively monitoring the situation. But Stewart did not trust the motives of President Robinson. There was a fierce built in loyalty in military service to the office of the President, but Stewart believe he owed his loyalty to the office, not the man sitting in it. There had been too many times where government policy had positively influenced business associates and businesses associated with Robinson's extended family. It was being said that policy decisions were being given priority on the basis on how it might personally affect Robinson's bottom line. He certainly had had no problem outspending his Democrat rival in the previous election.

    Noise levels increased markedly, snapping Stewart out of his reverie as the canopy hinged open, allowing in what characterised the Harrier as the worlds noisiest jet fighter.

    Bourne was already retrieving a leather bag from the small trunk hatch on Stewart's Harrier while Stewart started to disentangle himself from the cockpit. Both pilots remained in their cockpits, engines running ready to return to base once released from their charges. Bourne had been sick at some point in the flight as he was clasping a paper emesis bag in one hand. He was smart enough for a non-flying officer to hang onto the bag when it might be sucked into a Harrier engine if thrown away casually. Yates and an Army Ranger Lieutenant were jogging towards the jets, the Ranger relieved Bourne of the Generals satchel and the Colonels sick bag.

    Stewart sprang down the steps built into the fuselage of the Harrier and jogged over towards Yates, checking Bourne and Lieutenant Rodgers were following with the bag, undoing his flight helmet as he jogged. The idling Harriers goosed their engines as canopies closed; lifting slowly into the air before turning tail and fleeing noisily back in the direction they had come.

    Yates saluted his superiors as they approached.

    "Good afternoon sir."

    "Good to see you Yates. Let’s get this done shall we?" Stewart did not pause at Yates and kept marching towards Megatron, accepting his cap from Rodgers as he retrieved it and Bournes as they marched. A detachment of Rangers stood from the crouched positions and raced over, rifles at the ready, to escort the General as he approached Megatron. The blue robot beside Megatron indicated in the soldiers’ direction and Megatron turned and took a stride towards the party. Stewart has a prepared opening statement.

    "Megatron? I am Brigadier Perkele Stewart, of the United States Army. I have been empowered on behalf of the United States Government to negotiate your status here in the United States."

    "My crew and I crash landed here at the behest of others," said Megatron in a calm and controlled voice. "We merely want to leave your world and return to ours where we can be free of the Autobot threat." Stewart, initially surprised by Megatron’s contrite manner, felt he was being baited, but could not afford not to bite at the carrot Megatron was dangling.

    "We'll get back to that; there are a few procedural questions I have to ask. How many of you are there?

    "Six were killed in the fight and we have lost two more since then, we sadly number just nine now." In the background the black jet robot, which Yates had labelled Skywarp was counting his fingers in a distinctly human gesture and frowning. He looked about to say something when the grey one, Starscream appeared to get his attention and Skywarp went quiet. Stewart made a mental note to be wary of Megatron’s numbers. The next would require delicate wording.

    "We... we also need to ask about a pair of fighter aircraft that flew this way. We believe they attacked you." There was an awkward pause. The grey and red one, presumably the fighter escort from before, actually smirked. He mentally named it Skywarp, and the black one Starscream.

    "We were surprised," said Megatron almost hesitantly. For a building, he... it, Stewart caught himself starting to connect with this being, it made a great actor. Stewart knew the fighters had fired stand-off missiles first. "Both were destroyed but a small one flew away underneath some kind of shield. The other appeared to be killed." One parachuted to safety.

    "If you could show us to the wreck, we would appreciate it if we could recover the pilot’s body."

    "It can be arranged. Buzzsaw will help attend to your needs in that regard." A large eagle shaped robot, perched on a nearby rock, unfurled its wings and lit off its engines, flying towards Megatron, where the two briefly gained eye contact, then the eagle, presumably this was Buzzsaw, banked and turned away from the diplomatic discussion.

    "Are you likely to be rescued from your predicament?" Stewart wanted to ask are there more of you on the way but had to phrase it better. At this point Megatron moved. One giant knee folded and the chromed giant crouched down on one knee. Since it did not need to do this to make itself comfortably heard, this was either a surprisingly human gesture or Megatron was a more astute judge of body language than he would have thought.

    "We can't assume that a recovery mission would arrive in time with so many Autobots here." Again with the Autobots, Stewart noted.

    “There is more of your kind on this world than your group here?” This was important to know.

    “Of my kind? No. There are many Autobots back where we landed. We were involved in armed conflict at the upper reaches of your atmosphere and our joined vessels tumbled down where we made a barely controlled landing. They outnumbered us five one. If not for the accident, we would have been overcome and executed.”

    “What are these Autobots likely to do now?”

    “We were able to hold them some considerable time after your race arrived on this world and settled it. But many more were awakening and we were forced to flee the wreckage. They are likely to break out of their vessel and destroy everything in their path between them and us. I think there is much we can do to help each other in these arduous times ahead.” Whatever Megatrons motives, Stewart could not ignore what he was stating. But the great chrome warrior had made his first mistake. Why had he assumed that mankind had settled here? Did he mean white settlement of the Americas? Settlement of this world? Still Stewart now knew that Megatron was prepared to fudge the truth to get what he wanted. If he was to ask Stewart to attack these ‘Autobots’ he would listen, but he would listen for a message behind the words. In the meantime, Megatron was going to have to tell him much of how these Autobots fought.



    Laserbeak and Rumble were still contemplating Major Ashby's corpse when Buzzsaw arrived.

    "Megatron wants this... thing disposed of," Buzzsaw said with obvious distaste, surveying the stains in the sand. "The indigenous delegation is asking questions about it and the other one Starscream shot. It would not be good for Megatron's negotiating position."

    "Why should I even care what these soft flesh bags think? I could slaughter thousands of them without even going through a verf of energon." Rumble waved the bloodied stump of Ashby's arm at Buzzsaw. Buzzsaw waddled backwards from Rumbles gesticulations wary of the obscene droplets of fluid Rumble was splashing about.

    "Do it Rumble. You and Laserbeak created this mess, you clean it up." Laserbeak said nothing while Buzzsaw berated Rumble. He waddled towards the pilots corpse as was about to grab the cadaver by its shoulders when a communication sounded.

    "Buzzsaw; two aliens approaching from South-West," rang the harshly electronic tones of Soundwave. "Expedite disposal immediately. Ravage; provide diversion." Ravage had been sitting quietly nearby, disguised by the lengthening shadows of the setting sun. The Casseticon sprang to its paws and dashed quickly away. Buzzsaw turned back to Laserbeak.

    "Laserbeak, go now. And Rumble, give Laserbeak that disgusting lump of meat." In the dissipating light, distorted by the thickness of this disturbing planets atmosphere, Rumble's red livery almost glowed against the black of the majority of his body as he regarded the glinting golden figure of Buzzsaw, before turning and tossing the limp in the direction of Laserbeak who inclined his head, catching the limb like a seagull catches a potato chip at the beach and took to the skies, barely high enough to maintain flight and keep the corpse off the ground.



    "One of them is flying off now. It appears to be carrying something large but I can't make it out." Corporal de Villota was squinting through a pair of binoculars while Private Moore watched over his partner, watching the surroundings, M16A2 assault rifle trained outwards ready, eyes aware for any sign of movement.

    The pair, which on occasion worked as a sniper team had been dropped into position, flopped almost after stepping of the outrigger fairing of the small Hughes OH-57 Defender chopper to the rear of the Decepticon formation, their thick sand coloured Ghili suits immediately removing them from sight. Their arrival had been timed simultaneously to the flashy appearance of the Harrier jump jets carrying the senior SIU officers. De Villota and Moore had worked themselves into position slowly as the afternoon dragged by. With the sun setting now they took the opportunity to move quicker while they could still tell which way the strange robots direction.

    Once close enough night vision goggles had appeared and now the pair watched the formation as a rearward listening post for Stewart, reporting what they saw and impressions. The group of smaller aliens had gathered some way behind the formation. There were two human sized bipeds and two large birds. De Villota was watching the group while Moore kept an eye on their immediate surroundings.

    Moore saw something approaching and it wasn't until Ravage was almost upon them when Moore realised they were being approached by a big cat.

    "Corp!" De Villota turned away from his binoculars taking in the big cat as it continued its approach.

    "Six be advised we are being approached by a Cougar and personal safety may be compromised. Moore envisioning being attacked by a Cougar still hoping that the beast would turn away, waited until he sensed the cat was practically upon them. Looking into a setting sun was deceived by the ambient light, and the actual size of Ravage, who despite looking in shape like a Panther was larger again than the biggest Lion. De Villota dropped his binoculars onto the neck chain and grabbed for his M16 and trained his out in the same direction as Moore

    De Villota's senses, still mostly looking at the bustle of alien activity were drowned out when Moore, who felt he could wait no longer fired a three round burst at the cat. De Villota cursed loudly. Cover had been blown all for the lack of a silenced pistol. The bullets spanged off Ravage's armour and he continued forward suddenly filling the vision of both men as Moore fired a second burst at point blank range. Ravage hissed an electronic noise, and pounced, knocking Moore flat under the weight of the Decepticon. De Villota cried out and collapsed in pain, clutching a wound in his side. Still clenching his radio de Villota gasped out as loud as he could;

    "Man down! Man down!"

    Arms pinned beneath the weight of the cats strangely cold feeling forepaws, Moore just stared at the face of the cat. The cat, more like a Panther than a Cougar, but less like either moved its head around taking in carefully the soldier before looking across at de Villota who was hissing angrily through the pain of the ricochet wound in his side. The head turned back towards Moore.

    "What are you doing here?" the voice was quiet, almost whispered, and heavily accented, but clearly came from the cat. What was left of Moore's composure shattered and the trained soldier screamed and kept on screaming as his mind ran away to hide when his body could not. A heavy paw smashed across his vision, ending the noise.



    Standing beside the three SIU officers, Rodgers tensed suddenly as the bark of a M16 burst through the late afternoon stillness. The Rangers, scattered about between the aliens and the stationary Super Stallion all brought their rifles up, trained outwards from the helicopter, or in covering fire directions to support the four officers. A voice erupted from the tactical radio hissing Corporal de Villota's pleas. Stewart and Megatron both paused in their deliberations, as a tall squared off blue robot looked towards Megatron, as if communicating via telepathy.

    "Sergeant Nolan! Take second squad and go to their assistance. Third squad fall back to the heelo, first squad on me." One of the soldiers made a sweeping arm signal and a third the troops present stood and started the peculiar jog-run of soldiers moving quickly at high alert with weapons at high guard. Of the remainder half formed a widely space perimeter about the Stallion, all of them with rifles and machine pistols at the ready. Rodgers turned to Stewart. "Sir we will have wounded. With your permission I'd like to get the helicopter spooled up."

    Stewart cursed to himself. Just a single moment’s itchy trigger finger and the situation collapsed. Rangers were supposed to be better than this. All the while cursing, Stewart nodded and Rodgers turned towards the Super Stallion, pointed at the cockpit where both pilot and co-pilot had been watching the officers intently, and twirled his fingers in a circle above his head.

    After a brief loud mechanical sound a heavy whining noise built up as the clutch released the power from the gas turbine engines into the main rotor.

    "What is happening?" Megatron’s voice wasn't correctly adjusted to the subtleties of human hearing and was still too loud, his voice booming across the desert.

    "One of my soldiers has been wounded in an incident with a large animal. We may have to leave to get his wounds treated. We have only one vehicle on hand and you'll forgive me when I say I don't completely trust you yet." Bourne cradled his radio as a message for Stewart came in, Bourne whispered an affirmative.

    "Sir the LP was attacked by one of the robots and the two men wounded, the medic has called for the Stallion to evacuate them, I told them we are coming."

    "Since time then is short I have an urgent request for you. We need to locate the vessel we came to your world in. It contains consumables we will need to survive any length of time on this world." Stewart strongly suspected Megatron was lying, but in case he wasn't he had a suspicion forming in his head, and an old diving memory.

    "Can you show me what this vessel looks like?"

    “Soundwave, an image of the Nemesis.” The squared-off blue robot turned and projected a three dimensional hologram in the air in front of the four officers. Rotating in the air in front of them was a heavily stylised craft. Oblate in cross section with a sharp point and an elevated bridge structure, it looked vaguely familiar to Stewart.

    “Can you edit this image?” The Stallion was now up to speed and was inching forward indicating the pilots impatience to run medivac while the General held up proceedings.

    “Affirmative,” Soundwave’s voice was harshly electronic and devoid of personality.

    “Can you lean the bridge structure ten degrees to the left.” After a brief pause the superstructure leaned to one side. Stewart was sure now but wanted to go further.

    “Can you put a hole the size of… you near the middle of the prow, the pointy end. Put a five degree kink roughly in the middle of the structure. No other direction and rip the rear 20% from the vessel.” If Megatron looked concern over this potential description of his vessel he wasn’t showing it. But sure enough Stewart now was certain, and sighed heavily. “I’ve seen your ship and it’s at the bottom of the ocean.”



    COMING SOON - Ever been trapped in a pub having shouts with someone you don't like? You gotta listen to them crap on about nothing and they've got a face like a dropped pie, a body that has the bumps in all the wrong places, scaring away any potential interesting members of the opposite sex. What do you you do tell the person what you really think and walk out and find another pub? Sideswipe will find that a little difficult as the Ark has the only bar on the planet in SENTRY DUTY
     
  19. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Eleven - Sentry Duty --

    The local star was setting, the terminator marching inexorably towards the mountain range. Perched on one of the higher ridgelines was an incongruous sight. A sharp angular wedge shape, unquestionable a motor vehicle, but it had the look of extravagant expense. Low slung, full of sharp corners, and a scarlet livery so deep you could imagine the fires of hell, if you looked close enough. The famous bull badge was missing on this Lamborghini. Instead a metallic red stylised androids face looked out at the world.

    A road-less ridgeline deep in the Cascade Ranges was about the last place to find a hundred thousand dollar plus Lamborghini Countach. For this was not the latest automotive thoroughbred from Italy, this was Sideswipe the Autobot. Just as out of place as the Autobot logo were the array of long aerials, some rigid, some whip deployed from or beside the 'Countach'. Sideswipe was playing look out while his fellows were busy far below bringing the Ark back to life.

    And Sideswipe was bored out of his cranial sub-frame. With only six Autobots up and about, not including Goldbug, everyone was frenetically busy except for Sideswipe. Even the undirected ball of annoyance called Cliffjumper was making himself useful and here was Sideswipe, playing sentry. He didn't even have Sunstreaker to trade verbal barbs with. Even supposing his slightly less than practical brother was conscious, Jazz had Sideswipe under strict EmCon, or emissions control. Which basically meant no transmissions of any kind unless urgent. And urgent meant Megatron striding over the nearest hillside Fusion Cannon at the ready. Who precisely had died and made Jazz leader hadn't been made precisely clear either. Sideswipe smiled to himself imagining what Sunstreaker would make of that.

    The relationship between Sidewsipe and Sunstreaker was one that continued to surprise his fellow Autobots. They would describe each other in a manner that would induce violence in anyone else, and yet took each grievous insult as a term of endearment. Having spent virtually their entire lives since emerging from mould side-by-side each had recognised a kindred spirit in the other, and a talent for warfare that few appreciated let alone shared. It was a friendship as tight as any male-female relationship. But at this moment Sideswipe was glad of his 'brothers' absence. He was going to hate this very organic and very wet world.

    The amount of aerial traffic had surprised Sideswipe, he had been aware this planet had been dead when they had arrived but something had happened while they were... asleep was the term Wheeljack had used while explaining what to expect. What he had not expected was the electrical storm that swept by yesterday, and had briefly sent Sideswipe into a panic in the coverless environment, apart from the flimsy vegetation, until realising the rain that was falling was simple neutral water rather than the heavily acidic rain of Cybertron.

    It had been a week since the available warriors had gathered around the Ark's new entrance to farewell Goldbug. The first day he had had regular communication as Trailbreaker bugged him far too often for updates of the outside world, until Jazz had thankfully shut him up with the EmCom discipline. Although by the sounds coming up the mountain, Trailbreaker was now going to grace him with his physical presence. Which was more boring, a communication from Trailbreaker, or a visitation from Trailbreaker? At least a communication could be cut off.

    Into view bounced the blocky black shape of Trailbreaker's vehicle mode. If it was possible for Trailbreaker to find an even graceless alternate mode than the one he had had before, then this was it. Every corner of his vehicular body was close to square, and must have had all the aerodynamic efficiency of Huffer’s head, even supposing his motive power units could propel him through this planet thick atmosphere to make aerodynamic shape matter, although Sideswipe did notice, with a twinge of jealousy, he negotiated the rugged terrain with far more success than Sideswipe who had had to walk over half the distance to this summit.

    "Enjoying the vegetation?" Trailbreaker was annoyingly cheerful.

    "Yeah, that is just what is occupying my attention. Since there is not anything else to occupy my attention."

    "Do not go asking for trouble, we have little capacity to cope with it." Some of Sideswipes frustrations bubbled to the surface at this cheery admonishment.

    "And why not? Is Jazz leading us as a fighting unit or as a hunting club?"

    "Jazz is doing his best, but we have no senior commanders to think strategically..."

    "Scrap strategy. Find Megatron and scrap him. It is very simple to me." Trailbreaker did not immediately reply, pausing as if considering Sideswipes words.

    "Tell me about what the passive sensors have picked up." At least Trailbreaker had lost his air of cheerful idiocy and seemed to be taking things more seriously.

    "Large amount of aerial traffic, more than you led me to believe. Four columns of ground vehicles have passed along the nearby major trail, all painted a colour so drab Sunstreaker would frag them on general principle. Without some indication of how things work here I can't tell you how normal that is. No Decepticons in the vicinity. Ravage or possibly Laserbeak could be in the area, but anyone else and I would have them cold with a missile breaching their armour before you wasters could think of responding to a back-up call." The black canopied Toyota Hi-Lux just sat and absorbed the information for a moment. Sideswipe was aware he was speaking more like his brother than he did normally, but the situation and his role in it was frustrating him.

    "I am not convinced that that is not bad news. We have not had much chance to gather intelligence, but one thing; the military of this world like to wear drab green. Were these columns drab green?"

    "Yes." Sideswipe dragged the word out while speculations raced through his mind. Surely these humans could not pose a threat to them? How?

    "Have you seen any columns of vehicle that were not drab green in colour?"

    "No. Anything else moving about has appeared to be individual vehicles."

    "Remember they have a ridiculous weight of numbers advantage over us. Maybe they will come to believe the sacrifice of their lives is worth the cost of easing their fears of the unknown. And there is Megatron."

    "There is always Megatron." Sideswipe paused, following that thought through. "He could be out there filling the locals’ heads with garbage about us." Again Trailbreaker lapsed into contemplative silence, not responding to Sideswipes words.

    "This is not good," the black SUV eventually said, mostly to himself it appeared as the voice was barely audible. Surely Trailbreaker had not started talking to himself?

    "Have Wheeljack and Ratchet revived any more Autobots yet or even decided on any?" Sideswipe just said the first thing that came into his head rather than listen to Trailbreaker's thoughts aloud.

    "No nothing. Why? Are you missing Sunstreaker that badly?" Trailbreaker perked up a little with the opportunity to stir the friendly antagonism most of the warrior group held to the antics of Sideswipe and Sunstreaker.

    "Not in the slightest. The fragging blowhard would be scratching himself raw in an environment like this and he would probably sit in an oil bath continuously until someone gave him a Decepticon to hit." Sideswipe paused, softening his words. “Any messages from Goldbug?” Goldbug was annoying too, but the little Autobot had pluck, racing off on his own on a mission that Jazz could not even fully define.

    “No nothing. But we would only expect something if it was urgent.” For a moment these two Autobots with next to nothing in common shared the same thoughts.

    It was Trailbreaker who broke the reverie. He briefly wished Sideswipe well and started to retreat back along the broken path he had just ascended. While the Ark was in a protected position visually, once nearby there was little disguising the sheer size of it. How do you disguise a broken crashed starship? Who could disguise a broken crashed starship?



    COMING SOON - ...all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last, best hope for peace. The year is 1984, and the name of the Autobot is GOLBUG 5... umm maybe not, but nonetheless, he's alone in an alien inenvirnoment with nothing to eat except his own tyres if he's really desperate. That and they're Kumho's whichhave never been the tastiest brand label. Now a nice set of Michelin Pilotes, seasoned with a bit of road kill, now THAT's what I'm talking about... NEXT - ENTER THE BUMBLEBEE!
     
  20. Falcadore

    Falcadore Touring Car Autobot

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    -- Chapter Twelve - Enter The Bumblebee --

    A thousand different insects chirped in the cool summer evening. A paper boy rode past delivering evening papers. Cars came and went from a hundred suburbia driveways, people arriving home from work, people driving to and from shops, picking up and dropping off children at school or sports or other leisure pursuits. People walked, people jogged, people strolled hand in hand, people exercised dogs, and people watered front lawns.

    Parked amongst all of this activity Goldbug tried and failed to make sense of it. Eventually he dismissed it. Trying to catalogue it was making his head hurt. He continued to wait. Two days ago, after four days driving and attempting to make investigations he had plucked up the courage to ask one of these humans in an odd version of their language for a map. It took four people before one human dug through the larger of two shoulder mounted bags it had been carrying and tossed a folded road map in one of Goldbug’s windows. The human had then looked around the background as if looking for someone observing their conversation.

    While Goldbug might not have been aware of what Candid Camera meant he was still being cautious of observation. After six hours driving around Seattle and inspecting signs Goldbug had determined how the map worked and should be oriented. Matching against the data that accompanied the image Ratchet supplied, Goldbug turned south heading for the next city, one on the other side of a significant border of some kind.

    Goldbug had had to beg for another map in this next city of Salem only it took around a dozen people to find one friendly enough to even consider communicating with the Autobot.

    "Excuse me." The human peered over at Goldbug. This one was a little shorter than average but was brightly dressed, wearing a riot of mismatched fabric armour over the flesh underneath. She also had a long flowing mane of some kind of very fine yellow decorative animal fur that hung just below its shoulders.

    "Yes?"

    "Can you help me I need a map of this city to find a particular road." The human altered its facial expression in what Goldbug assumed was a smile.

    "Wait here."

    "I am not going anywhere."

    "Oh-kaay," it said more hesitantly and walked quickly away, heading towards a man standing behind a counter that was covered in multitudes of flimsy parchment publications. The creature was quickly back and grabbed Goldbug's door handle. For a moment Goldbug did not release the locking mechanism on his passenger side door, but decided that with his energon supplies dwindling faster than he expected he needed the help more desperately than prudence would normally allow.

    "Here you go," it said after opening the door and tossing the map on the passenger seat. The map was folded and Goldbug could not read the internal pages. This was going to be troublesome.

    "Could you unfold it for me?" The human said nothing for a moment before bending over and spreading the map open. It then reconsidered, picking up the map and climbing into the passenger seat and dumping the map on the drivers seat.

    "So why am I playing with a map for you?" The voice was chirpy for one of these humans and analysis of its voice patterns showed a smooth delivery with any apparent stress being applied, as far as Goldbug could tell. Despite the oddness of the situation this human seemed relaxed.

    "Because I am lost in this strange place and I am trying to find someone I have an address for."

    "Oregon is a strange state," said the human. "You know you have a sexy voice and I'm just dying to meet the man who owns a yellow Beetle.” There was a brief pause as if the human considered some new thought. “You're not… gay are you?"

    "I like to think I am cheerful."

    Eventually Goldbug had insisted he had to go and find his destination. The human insisted it was heading in that direction and insisted on wanting to meet the owner of a remote control ‘Beetle’. Goldbug eventually decided she meant that was the name of his alt mode. The human panicked initially when Goldbug finally drove off but was soon accustomed to the ride and providing directions through Salem’s suburbs. It introduced itself as Carly Winters. Goldbug aware suddenly that he was supposed to reciprocate with a two word name introduced himself as Goldbug Witwicky, stealing the name from the data he held as he gradually learned to read the language. When Carly then asked if he was Jewish, Goldbug decided not answering might be a good policy until he found out what a ‘Jewish’ was.

    When they arrived at the address, Goldbug implied he was inside at the address indicated and waited in the street parked in front of the next house, while a nervous but clearly curious Carly walked to the door. The driveway had been filled with two other vehicles, the larger one looked like it was designed for transporting cargo, yet despite its humble role, it had paintwork that would make Sunstreaker frown with envy, had it been yellow rather than a metallic maroon. The smaller one was unpainted and looked incomplete with several holes in the outer shell and a hollow interior.

    Carly had reached the door and another human had come to the doorway, which was finely latticed but did not open it. It was not the human in Ratchets image. The decorative fur was the wrong colour to begin with. There appeared to be an animated discussion forming. Goldbug retuned his audio sensors to better pick up the conversation.

    “I can assure you there is no-one here called ‘Goldbug’ but we are Witwickys. I’m Spike and I’m delighted to meet one so gorgeous as you. Would you please come in and have a coffee and tell me about this Goldbug?” At this point the lattice door opened and ‘Spike’ was gesturing inside. Carly wasn’t moving.

    “Could you tell me who does live here?”

    “Well, my dad and my brother Buster live here.” Buster. Goldbug decided that could be the pronunciation for the word next to Witwicky and quickly fired his engine, moving rapidly forward turning into the driveway. Amplifying his speakers he called to Carly who promptly apologised to the human at the door and jogged back towards Goldbug. Its face was set in an ugly expression, which Goldbug decided was anger. The human at the door stood where he was a scratched his head while another figure pushed past.

    “Listen Goldbug,” Carly put emphasis on the name as though he didn’t deserve the honour of it, “I’m sick of these games I’m a long way from home and I demand an explanation.” The second human at the door matched the photo. Goldbug took a risk.

    “Buster!” The second human jumped at Goldbug’s call, his face shifting through a myriad of expressions, before walking slowly towards Goldbug and Carly.

    “Do you know what this game is about?” Carly was obviously getting agitated and the concept of being ignored, by all except Spike that is, frustrating.

    “Is this another talking car?” Buster’s voice was filled with trepidation.

    “Another? You have met another one like me?”

    “Yes. No. Sort of. I think so. He’s in the garage.” Buster struggled for the right answer.

    “What’s going on here, are you all weird?” asked an increasingly exasperated Carly as a third figure, heavier set the other two was walking over towards the commotion.

    “I think we need to continue this conversation indoors,” said the new human. “If I move the truck can you drive into the garage?” A vehicle sized door was opening in the building with another vehicle visible beyond. This last human climbed about the cargo vehicle and made an opening for Goldbug to drive through inside, followed by Buster, Carly and Spike. The third human walked inside behind Spike and pressed something beside the doorway, triggering the rolling door slowly closed. The room was cluttered and large enough to contain both Goldbug and another vehicle with plenty of space besides. The space was filled with clutter, and a lot of tools made to fit the small hands of the flesh people. There was the strangest feeling of familiarity about it the other vehicle.

    “Would you like to explain yourself?” said the senior of the three newcomers as he folded his arms in a defiant gesture.

    “I deceived you Carly, my name is not Goldbug Witwicky, just Goldbug. Could you please stand back against the other vehicle? I need some room.”

    “What for?” said the new figure, but Carly, Buster and Spike moved back nonetheless. Goldbug pushed and stretched mentally and before four shocked expressions, changed.

    In his warrior mode Goldbug could not stand so he lay on his back and rolled to the left while the other figure walked around from behind his head. Carly had squealed and jumped, grabbing the nearest person, which to Spike’s disgust happened to be Buster, while Buster’s face changed colour, becoming noticeably lighter in hue.

    “Oh my god,” mumbled Buster. He started to collapse with his buckling knees not helped at all by the additional weight of Carly as she leaned against him. The pair suddenly collapsed in an undignified heap as limbs appeared to spread in all directions. Despite their own emotional state Spike and the other figure laughed although both quickly regained their composure. Carly and Buster disentangled with Carly standing up again, ignoring Spike’s proffered hand. Buster stayed seated, continuing to stare at Goldbug.

    "Wow! You look like a great walking Bumblebee," Carly exclaimed, the reality sinking in quickly, fear giving way to excitement.

    From his own reclined position, Goldbug pointed at Buster.

    “You were at our ship and saw us.” Buster just nodded.

    "My name is Goldbug, this is Carly Winters," Goldbug waved in Carly's direction for the benefit of the others. "She assisted me in finding Buster Witwicky from an image we recorded while you were in our wrecked spaceship."

    "Our leader, Optimus Prime went missing just after our surgeon Ratchet saw you in our ship. We had hoped you might know something about what happened to Optimus Prime."

    "That was the name the head used," exclaimed Spike, momentarily tearing his stare away from Carly.

    "What head? Prime is here?" Goldbug, suddenly excited, sat up and put his head through the plasterboard ceiling, sending clouds of powdered plaster into the garage.

    "Hey! What the hell did you do that for?" the third figure after looking daggers at Spike turned his angered gaze at Goldbug as he demolishing the garage ceiling. Ducking once more Goldbbug faced the third figure.

    "Where is Prime?" There was a pause with everyone looking at the still to be named figure. He uncrossed his arms and sighed heavily.

    "My name is Sparkplug Witwicky, my two sons you apparently know. When Buster returned after apparently meeting you, well you better see this."

    "Dad," Buster started to say something holding out an arm but wavered into silence under the gaze of four pairs of eyes. Buster was still seated on the floor of the garage. Spike extended his own hand and help Buster to his feet.

    "You're acting a bit weird bro. You OK?" Spike attempted to ask his brother quietly. Goldbug's hearing picked up the query just fine.

    "There's a twelve foot robot in our garage and you think I'm acting weird?"

    "OK, OK, just askin'"

    "Buster would you pop the hood?" asked Sparkplug from up front of Buster Jeep. Goldbug was trying to manoeuvre his body around the garage without taking out more plasterboard ceiling with his helmet horns. It was not easy as his feet had been at the hood end of Buster's Wrangler after transforming.

    With the latch released Sparkplug pushed up the hood and but the stay in place.

    "Optimus!" Goldbug only half heard his own strangled gasp. The site of his revered leader and mentor melded into the side of a ancient oil driven mechanical engine was almost too much for Goldbug. Sparkplug connected a pair of leads, and the blue eyes lit up.


    "Optimus! Are you well?" Goldbug slipped into his own language for ease of communication and to help Prime whose translation of human language can not have had as much run time devoted to it. Goldbug immediately sent Optimus an update file for translation.

    "Goldbug?"

    "Yes sir," the scratchy sound of Optimus voice issuing from the small magnetic speakers in the vehicle threatened to overwhelm Goldbug. The little Autobot had always looked up to some of the senior Autobots with a bit of hero worship, and seeing Optimus like this was not doing wonders for Goldbug's mental state.

    "How are the troops?"

    "Prowl was wounded during the Ark's liberation. He will be OK, eventually. Most of the crew are being kept in stasis because of a lack of energon supplies. Jazz is leading a group of five restoring Teletran and the Ark and trying to create an energon supply or source, with Sideswipe holding a beacon at the hatch.”

    "Now wait a second, I need to know about what you are doing here." Sparkplug was getting impatient while the Autobots spoke amongst themselves.

    "I have to get Optimus back to the Ark," said Goldbug, his voice full of concern for his leader’s predicament.

    "You're not taking Buster's Jeep. Separate them here," challenged Sparkplug defiantly. Buster was looking on almost timidly while Spike's eyes roamed from face to face. Carly still clung to one of Buster's arms.

    "I need my Jeep for work on Monday," added Buster, feeling as if he should assert himself more into the discussion.

    "The excursion will not take long," reassured Optimus Prime's scratchy voice. "One of my team as one of the best battlefield surgeons I have ever come across. Ratchet would restore both me and your vehicle very quickly. Additionally, you could not leave me here forever. You would have to face my presence here eventually. Would it not be better to do so on favourable terms?"



    "Buster?" Only now with a decision imminent did Sparkplug turn to Buster. Until now the veteran mechanic had felt to need to protect his somewhat shaken son, but Buster realised he would have to step in and take responsibility for his own predicament. Buster looked across at his brother and his father. Then glanced at the girl by his side, who was looking up into his face trying to read his features.

    "Dad, can you take a day off work?"

    "Alright," said the enthusiastic Spike.

    "Spike this is not your problem," said Sparkplug, the protective parent again.

    "How can you tell me to walk away from something like this? Real life alien beings from another world."

    "Alien?" said Goldbug, perplexed at having his perceptions turned on him.

    "Ms Winters?"

    "I'm going wherever my Bumblebee goes. I’m not leaving this story half told."

    "Great, I can accompany you while Dad and Buster talk with Optimiser."

    "Optimus Prime," corrected Goldbug.

    "Spike, you're coming with me in the Jeep," said Sparkplug. Buster was quietly thankful at Sparkplug’s thoughtfulness. That last thing he needed was to listen to Spike try and ‘pick up’ Carly for the next few hours. "I don’t think we should travel together in populated areas.”

    “A commendable precaution,” added the strange voice from the Jeep. “Goldbug, can you contact the Ark?”

    “Yes, but Jazz suggested only in an emergency. I have yet to make a transmission since leaving The Ark.”

    “We'll leave first and meet up with you at the outskirts on the highway north. We don't know who else is looking for these two."

    Preparations were quickly made as the Witwickys grabbed what pre-packaged food was in the house and loaded up the Wrangler and Goldbug, now returned to Volkswagen mode.

    Both garage doors were open and Spike backed out Buster’s Wrangler out into the darkened skies of the early hours of the morning.

    “Wait half an hour, then follow. And don’t fall asleep.” Sparkplug issued Buster a final instruction while Carly dozed quietly in the passenger seat of Goldbug, wearing one of Buster's jackets to ward off the pre-dawn chill. It was approaching 3AM and Carly had started tripping over things in fatigue an hour ago.

    “Sure Dad.” Buster looked across at the driver, a measure of his self-confidence returning. “If you scratch my Jeep, I’m selling your Datsun to pay for it.” Spike grinned but did not return the threat. Then the metallic blue four wheel drive was gone, headed out of the subdivision and heading for the nearest arterial road. A dark coloured van passed them heading in the other direction. As Goldbug backed out on to the driveway with the still dozing Carly aboard, Buster noticed a second dark coloured Chevrolet van up the street. A thought rattled around loosely in Buster's tired brain, but staring at the van it refused to connect. He turned towards the garage doors to close them; already thinking of the thermos of coffee perched inside Goldbug.



    Spike swore briefly and veered further to the right of the road as a large dark van chopped across their nose at the intersection heading deeper into the subdivision.

    "Hold a moment Spike."

    "Is something concerning you Sparkplug?" The deep voice from the speakers was more subdued than before almost as if the alien was aware of some need for stealthy behaviour.

    "Two identical dark coloured vans. Maybe I've been watching too many movies but I don't like that. Could it be that Goldbug was being followed? Have you guys made any enemies since you've been here?"

    "I do not believe the Autobots have had sufficient time to develop any ill feeling, however your authorities may not be able differentiate between Autobots and Decepticons."

    "Deception what? How many of you are there?"

    "For the present I think it best that you did not know that until we know each other better. We came here on a mission of the utmost urgency and time is not a luxury I can afford."



    Buster screwed the cap back onto the top of the thermos and held one steaming cup of coffee near Carly's face. Her nose twitched in her sleep. Carly Winters was certainly a looker and Buster found himself relaxing in her presence, despite the apparent alienness of their surroundings. Buster judged her a shade under five foot five. Beneath an impressive mane of blond curly tresses was a slightly round face with prominent jaw line that verged on masculine. She had the slim look, and the mismatched riot of colours typical of student clothing and despite the shapelessness of the clothes it appeared she had an attractive physique. The steaming coffee brought her fully awake with a yawn and gratefully accepted the cup.

    "Don't spit in it, there's only the one cup. I didn't know how Goldbug would react to car litter."

    "That will need an explanation. I am still translating your language."

    "He'd never get stains out of upholstery." Carly smiled.

    "If it is upholstery," Buster added with mock seriousness. Carly paused and stared at Buster before facing the dashboard.

    "Bumblebee is that..."

    "Nothing like that. I think. What is upholstery?" asked the puzzled robot, who chose that moment to fire his motor and back up the drive. "It is time we left after Optimus."


    Buster looked out the window and saw one of the dark vans. The glass was tinted so he could not see in the cabin windows but his trained eye noticed the chassis sat lower than it should. But vans were always carrying heavy loads. It was not a good idea though to leave a loaded truck in the street overnight, lest a thief with a trained eye decide to steal it.

    Buster turned for one look back at the house the Witwicky men had inhabited these last five years and wondered how he would return. A pretty girl at his side riding in an alien car, things could scarcely be different from a week ago.

    "How did you come by a name like Buster?" asked Carly, turning her attention away from her 'Bumblebee' for a moment.

    "It’s a mechanics tradition to nickname each other. I just finished my apprenticeship. My real name is Brent."

    "Brent," Carly repeated. "I actually think I prefer Buster. Any reason for it?"

    "I keep busting tools," said Buster sheepishly.

    "I'm sorry I asked." Carly smiled through her sleepy eyes. Buster liked the smile.

    "I am going to try calling the Ark now, to let them know we are coming." Goldbug interrupted the reverie as the exited the suburban subdivision and started driving past an industrial estate. Buster noticed a roar in left ear and suddenly one of the dark vans raced up alongside before chopping across Goldbug's nose. The sliding door slid back as a second van appeared from behind, cutting off their retreat. Several dark clad figures holding rifles emerged from the vans. Some clutched large satchels and tossed them underneath Goldbug's wheels.

    "Carly," Buster's voice carried an urgency that the girl could not help but respond to. Several rifles were trained in at towards Goldbug’s windows. Buster suddenly worried if aliens made bullet proof glass.

    "Attention alien." The amplified voice that burst forth was not loud, but it was clear. "You will surrender into our custody immediately. You will not assume another shape, but you will indicate your surrender by voice or by flashing your headlights."

    "What did they throw underneath you Goldbug?" Buster had some dangerous suspicions.

    "Surrender or we will detonate the satchel charges."

    "Explosives Goldbug."

    "I doubt they could harm me. However you and those troops would probably be harmed. I will do what they say, but I have a plan. Buster, Carly, never doubt my word. It may look bad but it will be the best for all of us."

    "I trust you Bumblebee." Carly's voice was firm, and gave Buster the courage to place himself in Goldbug's hands.

    "Do what you need to do Goldbug."

    After a long pause, Goldbug flashed his headlamps.




    "I thought you knew the way to the interstate?"

    "Well maybe you should have driven." Spike and Sparkplug had been sitting at an intersection just before an on ramp to a major arterial road. The sign though was missing and road works covered the area as land was being resumed for an additional lane of traffic.

    "Take the on ramp and we'll figure it out from there. No wait." Sparkplug saw another dark van and a dark coloured sedan sat at the next intersection to their left on the other side of the flyover bridge on which sat the arterial road Spike and Sparkplug had been arguing over. It had been sitting there all the time they had been arguing Sparkplug realised.

    "Spike, pretend we're still arguing but watch that van." As Sparkplug spoke, the van was moving, turning right towards the blue Wrangler.

    "Spike when I say so, gun it and flick around and head for the off ramp heading south." It was a near 180 degree turn around, but if timed right would leave the van behind them, facing in the wrong direction.

    "Goldbug is in trouble," the speakers said softly. Sparkplug cursed as the van moved into position while in the distance the sedan had not moved.

    "Now." Spike planted his right foot and the Wrangler leapt forward across the intersection turning left, passing the van in the opposite direction. The sedan took off in a squeal of tyres and charged towards the on ramp in the oncoming traffic lanes. The sedan got there first squealing to a halt and skidding the tail of the car outwards trying to block traffic, but Spike was already turning heading towards the off ramp exit. Sparkplug could see Spike had not turned sharply enough and would strike the nose of the sedan.

    "Hold on," yelled Spike and Sparkplug silently apologised to Buster. There was a jarring impact then the four wheel drive bashed downwards and across the sedans nose, the Wrangler's heightened suspension allowing Spike to partially climb over the car with a sickening lurch. Spike straightened the Jeep and stormed up the off ramp, headlights ablaze on high beam against the flow of the thankfully non-existent traffic. Sparkplug turned and looked damage. The sedan was moving again but steam was already venting from the ruptured radiator. The driver shut the car down, perhaps realising pursuit would be too brief in a car about to lose its engine. Spike flicked the wheel hard right at the top of the ramp and charged off down the freeway, heading south. The van had not backed up in time to pop into Sparkplug's vision before Spike turned. They were safe for the moment. But how was the Jeep?

    "How does the right front feel Spike?"

    "Doesn't feel punctured," said a shaky sounding Spike. Spike tested the car, after stepping of the accelerator for a moment he wrenched the wheel back and forth to test the steering and suspension to see if the car felt different. Spike quickly straightened and was back on the gas again.

    "Shall I take over driving? I think we can stop for a second to change over."

    "Let's press on Dad." There was a crackle in the speakers, the familiar prelude to Optimus Prime's voice bursting forth.

    "Goldbug has directed us to go to the meeting place you suggested Sparkplug but we will be met by someone else. Goldbug will try and safeguard Buster and Carly as much as possible." Optimus Prime's voice carried caution.

    "Safeguard from what?" asked Spike forcefully.

    "More vans." said Sparkplug ominously. "Don't slow down Spike. Did Goldbug say anymore?"

    "No. He had to contact the Ark. Now he is not answering my messages."

    "Dad, what does it mean?" Both Sparkplug and Optimus Prime remained silent, hoping their friends and family could handle whatever trouble had befallen them.

    "Not now son. Just drive." Sparkplug started thinking of ways to head back north again, looking ahead for an underpass or cloverleaf to head back in the intended direction. All the while Sparkplug resisted the temptation to grab the steering wheel from Spike, spun the Jeep around and race back in the direction they had come, looking for a son he did not expect to find and potentially placing himself and Spike back into the arms of the assailants they had only just avoided. He was going to have to trust and hope.


    COMING SOON - When a large number of somethings, all painted the same colour, head towards you, do you run, hide, attempt to negotiate or set that damn kitty of Gargamel's on those annoying Smurfs? But what if they were painted olive drab instead of blue and you were fresh out of Saiyans spoiling for a fight? When the army without Red Ribbons comes a knockin' Jazz is introduced to GUNPOINT DIPLOMACY!
     

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